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US begins A(H1N1) flu vaccination
Updated: 2009-10-06 10:59

NEW YORK/HOUSTON: Seven out of 396 students at Public School 40 in Brooklyn, New York received A(H1N1) flu vaccine shots on Monday, becoming the first recipients of the new flu vaccine in a highly-publicized vaccination campaign that began in a few states but will soon gain momentum across the United States.

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"In the pilot, we have six schools participating," Dr. Jane Zucker, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Immunization for the New York City Health Department, told Xinhua at the Brooklyn school, which was one of the first local schools selected for the pilot.

Some 700 students from New York public schools will receive A(H1N1) flu vaccine injections in the next seven days.

Biggest ever vaccination campaign

In Marion County, Indiana, and at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee, about 100 doctors and health workers on each site on Monday received Flu Mist, a nasal spray vaccine.

Local TV news footage showed that Indiana's first dose was administered to Dr. Charles Miramonti, an emergency room physician at Wishard Memorial Hospital in Indianapolis. He was given the Flu Mist vaccine in front of a bank of television cameras at an event attended by Governor Mitch Daniels.

Marion County received a shipment of 5,200 doses of the H1N1 flu vaccine, which will be split among the county's hospitals.

The Memphis medical center had witnessed three children die from the novel flu virus since it was first detected in April and quickly evolved into a global pandemic.

Monday's vaccinations marked the beginning of a nationwide campaign to inoculate at least half the US population -- and perhaps the entire country -- against the new A(H1N1) virus that has caused the first influenza pandemic in 41 years.

The US federal government has spent 2 billion dollars purchasing about 250 million doses of vaccine, and has pledged to buy enough to immunize every American if there is enough demand.

States began ordering vaccine last week, and about 7 million doses are expected to be available by the end of this week. About 40 million doses of nasal spray and injectable vaccine will be available by the middle of the month, with another 10 million to 20 million to become available every week after that.

Medical staff go first

Following months of preparations and promises, doctors, nurses and other health-care workers in the states of Indiana and Tennessee were among the first Americans to receive doses of A(H1N1) flu vaccine on Monday, as the US government launched the most ambitious vaccination campaign in history.

Initial shipments of the Flu Mist vaccine are so small that in most cases they're being reserved for health workers to guarantee they remain healthy enough to care for and vaccinate others, said Bill Hall, spokesman for the US Health and Human Services Department last week.

Healthcare workers, pregnant women and people with special health conditions including heart disease and diabetes are reportedly among the 160 million people the US Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said should be the first in line to get the vaccine.

As for school children, parents seem to be worried that A(H1N1) flu is going to be more serious in fall as compared with that in spring.

A survey showed that 75 percent of parents planned to get their children vaccinated against H1N1.

According to the CDC, about 40 percent of young children aged 2 to 4 are usually vaccinated against influenza.

The picture is complicated by seasonal flu vaccination, which started last month. Officials say people need both vaccinations to be protected from both seasonal flu and the pandemic H1N1 strain.

Varied attitudes

The CDC chief, Thomas Frieden, has said the A(H1N1) vaccine is more effective than some seasonal shots because the new virus has not mutated and matches the vaccine.

However, only 53 percent of adults said they plan to get vaccinated, with 41 percent saying they won't and six percent saying they're not sure, according to a telephone poll of 1,042 people conducted by Harvard University School of Public Health from September 14 to September 20.

Eugene Ferrerll, an 11th-grade student at Public School 40 of New York, told Xinhua on Monday that he does not want to "get sick, " so he will definitely have a shot if "it is free." "We are going to have one. But it's not serious. It's kind of sickness that people have to deal with," he added.

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