Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: How is the H1N1 vaccine made? Does it work the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine?
The 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine is made by the same manufacturers as the seasonal flu vaccine we’re all used to, and the same way. The H1N1 virus is grown in an egg and is then made into a shot or a nasal spray. To make the shot, the virus in the egg is killed. The nasal spray, on the other hand, carries the live, weakened virus. The shot is given with a needle and is usually injected into the arm, while the nasal spray is — you guessed it — administered up your nose.
Once in your body, the H1N1 vaccine works just like other vaccines do. After you are vaccinated, your body is tricked into believing that you have the virus, and your body produces an immune response to it. About two weeks after getting the vaccine, antibodies will develop in your body to protect you from H1N1. So if you are later exposed to H1N1, your immune system will respond with antibodies that fight off the infection and keep you from getting sick.
If you haven’t yet received your H1N1 vaccination, it’s not too late. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza activity can occur as late as May. More than 40,000 confirmed hospitalizations and 2,000 deaths have occurred from H1N1 since August, so it’s still a good idea to get your vaccination. Chances are your local grocery store or drugstore has a supply of the vaccine on hand, so stop by the pharmacy the next time you make a shopping trip.