More H1N1 Clinics Expected to Occur as More Vaccines Arrive

MIT Medical vaccinated nearly 1,050 students against the H1N1 flu-virus last Tuesday as part of a quickly arranged clinic.

Medical will hold an appointment-only clinic for an additional 200 students between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 24 in E23.

Undergraduate and graduate students interested in receiving this vaccine must be under age 24 and may arrange appointments by calling 617-253-4865.

Another 100 to 150 students were vaccinated on November 11 when a Medical clinic was opened up to all students under 24, due to low turnout from the original target group of children under 17. Extra vaccines that went unused would have expired after 24 hours.

Between the three clinics, MIT will have vaccinated about 1,350 students, or over ten percent of its combined 10,000-member student body.

Medical anticipates supplying more vaccines to students, staff, and MIT community members in future clinics as more of the vaccine becomes available. More information on Tuesday’s clinic can be found on Medical’s website.

Medical Fights H1N1 with More Clinics

The recent clinics on campus were part of federally-funded and state-implemented efforts to help limit the ongoing spread of H1N1, which infected roughly 22 million Americans, based on data collected by the Center for Disease Control between April and October 17, 2009.

Medical has documented over 480 cases of “influenza like illnesses” over the past ten weeks, although Associate Medical Director of MIT Medical David V. Diamond notes that not all of these cases are H1N1 and that not all H1N1 cases are reported.

Although Medical hopes to eventually make the vaccine available for free to the whole MIT community, Diamond said that the main problem with increasing outreach is that the vaccine is “slow in coming.”

Regarding next Tuesday’s clinic, Diamond said “we likely will not have enough vaccine next week for all who may be interested.”

It is likely, however, that another clinic will be offered after Thanksgiving, Diamond said. “Depending on additional vaccine deliveries, we will designate eligibility and logistics for the clinic.”

John M. Auerbach, State Commissioner of the Department of Public Health, recently reported on his public health blog that Massachusetts has received about 1 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine and suggested that future clinics — like next Tuesday’s and the one hoped for after Thanksgiving — will become more frequent.

Clinic Logistics

Tuesday’s vaccines were offered free of charge to undergraduate and then graduate students from 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in MacGregor House on a walk-in basis after Medical received the vaccine from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health a few days earlier.

Diamond said that Medical received Tuesday’s vaccines late last week and that, in accordance with Center for Disease Control (CDC) policy, the earlier vaccine deliveries were first offered to Medical staff, pregnant women, and children before students.

As more vaccines arrive, Medical will continue to follow CDC policy, giving high-risk patients and younger students first priority before staff and other community members.

Diamond said that, for Tuesday’s clinic, Medical first considered offering the vaccine to freshmen, but decided to increase the scope of the clinic to include all undergraduates because of the large number of vaccines available.

The undergraduates were notified via e-mail from dorm housemasters.

Medical decided to open the clinic to graduate students mid-day when less than half of the vaccines had been used.

Addressing Student Concerns

Medical uses its own syringes and needles, which might make the vaccine less painful, instead of the government-provided ones. Diamond said that the clinics have cost Medical an amount “in [the] thousands of dollars” and that MIT has not yet designated specific funds to the clinics.

For future clinics, Diamond said Medical would try to administer the vaccines on different days of the week to accommodate more students’ schedules. Running clinics on nights and weekends, when students would be less likely to have class or other activities, would substantially raise the cost of delivering vaccines, he said.

In response to potential concerns from community members about the long-term safety of the H1N1 vaccine, Diamond said the new vaccine presents the “same risk as the usual flu shot” and “is made by the same companies and processes as seasonal influenza shots that are given to 100 million people each year.”

He said the vaccine is “very safe” and that “there is a higher risk from the illness than the vaccine.”