DRHOOK- Pigs fly: But good luck finding H1N1 vaccine

the handsome doctor John Hong of Charlottesville

Tyra Banks made quite a spectacle of herself when she wore a bathing suit on her show. She told people who think she's fat that they can kiss her fat *#^!, and she slapped her heinie. Hell has no fury like a diva scorned.

I don't know how people can get on a stage, wear high heels, and show off their heinies. To me, it's like a bad dream in which you realize you're wearing your pajamas or are naked in public. 

Should you get vaccinated against the "Heinie"?

One of my patients asked me if he should get the heinie vaccine. "Heinie? You mean like your derriere?" He responded, "You know, H1N1–- Hini." Clever.

Right now, 48 states report widespread flu outbreaks, most consistent with H1N1 virus. 

"Most consistent?" 

Well, doctors like me can't culture sick patients with flu-like illness (FLI) because health insurance won't cover the $250 test. We can do the rapid influenza test, but it's only about 70 percent sensitive. If this rapid test shows influenza A, we assume it is H1N1 virus but can't confirm it. 

Also, patients who call the office with FLI are told to stay home, if possible, so they don't contaminate others. So who really knows how many people have or have had H1N1 virus? I think it's mega-mucho-many!

 The CDC recommends H1N1 virus vaccine (AKA swine flu vaccine) for people six months to 24 years old. It seems the ones who become most ill are the young ones. Folks 25-64 years old aren't pushed to get the swine flu vaccine unless they're immunocompromised (e.g. HIV+, diabetes, taking immunosuppresants) or have other health conditions– in particular, pregnancy, asthma, kidney disease, heart disease.

Who says getting old stinks? It appears those born before 1950 have some immunity to H1N1 virus. However, people in bad health over the age of 65 might still consider getting the vaccine.

The H1N1 vaccine is made the same way the seasonal flu vaccine is made, so the CDC considers it safe. The nasal spray is a live attenuated virus, meaning the H1N1 virus is alive but kind of sleepy. Because it's alive, those who are immunocompromised or pregnant shouldn't take this one. The shot is needed twice for those six months to nine years old: one shot, then another one four weeks later. Bummer! 

Some shots are free from thimerosol (the mercury compound voluntary pulled from most vaccines), but for some reason some shots contain this mercury preservative. 

What about people who have already had FLI, including me? There is no guarantee if people have had FLI that they indeed had H1N1 virus, so those considered at risk by CDC standards are recommended to get the swine flu vaccine. Those who have confirmed H1N1 virus should be immune the rest of this dreadful H1N1 season.

Some people were vaccinated for swine flu back in 1976, our country's bicentennial. However, this vaccine is not thought to provide full immunity in this year's pandemic. 

So, ready for the H1N1 vaccine? Good luck, because finding the vaccine is like a scavenger hunt. My medical office keeps getting updates from the health department saying it should be coming soon. And I keep singing, "She'll be coming ‘round da mountain when she comes," because the news of receiving supplies of the seasonal flu shot to H1N1 vaccine seems to be like a repeating verse of the song. (By the way, the seasonal flu shot doesn't provide protection from H1N1 virus.) 

Some people who have never wanted a flu shot are now clamoring for the swine flu shot because the illness is spreading so fast. I guess those who have said, "I'll get a flu shot when pigs fly," now have this chance.


Dr. Hook cracks a joke or two, but he's a renowned physician with a local practice and an interesting website, drjohnhong.com. Email him with your questions.