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Dr. Brian Currie, an infectious disease specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, supports the law but said including swine flu vaccinations could be a headache.
"It means twice as much time, tracking people to make sure they get a timely second vaccination" if required. "It's a lot more work," Currie said. "We'll do our best."
Though infectious disease specialists say they have seen no serious complications during the swine flu vaccine testing that began last month, some critics say it is being fast-tracked without adequate safety tests. Some also fear a repeat of a rare paralysis called Guillain-Barre syndrome that occurred during a 1976 swine flu vaccination effort, though there is no evidence the vaccine caused that condition.
Dr. William Schaffner has had two swine flu shots during testing at Vanderbilt University, with no ill effects. The current flu virus is molecularly different from the one circulating in 1976, so Schaffner, who has consulted for the swine flu vaccine makers, said similar problems are unlikely.
Deborah Burger, a president of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, said safety concerns persist. That union, with 86,000 members in 50 states, is weighing whether to support required flu shots for nurses.
She said the union believes patients should be protected but also wants to protect nurses from any potential vaccine-related problems, saying, "It's a difficult tightrope to walk right now."
More than 550 U.S. deaths have been attributed to the new H1N1 swine flu. So far it does not appear to be more deadly than regular seasonal flu. Projections for the upcoming season vary. A worst-case scenario from a scientific panel advising the White House said up to half the population might get sick and up to 90,000 might die.
An estimated 36,000 Americans die from regular influenza each year.
At Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, the first U.S. hospital to require flu vaccination for staffers, employees who object must wear a face mask during flu season or possibly be fired. Only a handful of objectors have been fired, all in the first season, 2005-06, said hospital spokeswoman Alisha Mark.
Dr. Joyce Lammert, Virginia Mason's chief of medicine, said if testing shows the new vaccine is safe and effective, and if supplies are adequate, the hospital will make that mandatory, too.
"We feel that getting immunized is so important," Lammert said. "In some ways, I'm glad H1N1 is out there. It raises awareness of the seriousness of the disease."
On the Net:
CDC flu advice:
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