At the same time, cases of seasonal flu are at record levels because of the new A/H1N1 virus. The number of cases is outpacing the typical number of regular flu cases at this time of year. Cases of regular flu usually peak between December and May.
"We're seeing an increase in serious pneumococcal infectious around the country," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A flu infection thins the lining of the respiratory tract, making the lungs more vulnerable to bacteria that can cause pneumonia. CDC officials in America are urging high-risk adults to obtain vaccinations against both pneumonia and A/H1N1.
Smokers and people with diabetes, chronic heart, lung and liver disease, or HIV are considered particularly high-risk. Only 25 percent of high-risk U.S. adults under age 65 have received a pneumonia vaccination, Dr Schuchat said at a news briefing Wednesday. "It's a vaccine you pretty much get once as an adult, not every year, the way the flu vaccine works," she said.
During a regular flu season, most serious cases of flu and flu-related pneumonia occur in people 65 or older. However, people younger than 65 are far more vulnerable to A/H1N1, because the virus is unlike any other flu their bodies have come in contact with.
The CDC also announced that 7 million more doses of the A/H1N1 vaccine have been made available since Friday, bringing the total doses available so far to 61.2 million in America. The health organization has also studied safety data since A/H1N1 vaccinations were started in early October. "So far, everything we've seen is very reassuring," Dr Schuchat said, " ... we're seeing patterns that are pretty much exactly what were seeing with the seasonal flu vaccine."
There have been some side effects though it counts for a very small percentage of those receiving the inoculation. Most of the reported side effects include sore arms and tenderness at the injection site. But health officials are particularly interested in a side effect that can cause a rare neurological illness called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
In 1976, there was an alarming rise in Guillain-Barre cases following a large-scale pandemic vaccination program. However Dr Schuchat said only 10 potential cases of Guillain-Barre have so far been reported in the U.S.
Two weeks ago it was been reported that a French woman suffered a crippling illness after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine. The woman, identified only as a health worker, was diagnosed with the crippling illness Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after a flu shot. It followed other reports about an American teenager from Virginia who was similarly struck down by the disease hours after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine.
According to the French health ministry the woman became ill within 6 days of being inoculated. Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the case diagnosed was light and that the woman was recovering. The Deutsche Press-Agenture said, news of the apparently vaccine-related illness is likely to dampen enthusiasm here for getting vaccinated against A/H1N1 flu.
There has also been outrage after it was reported in Germany that some ministers as well as the armed forces there received a special additive-free H1N1 vaccine that didn’t contain ingredients such as mercury and squalene that were included in shots for the general public.
France’s H1N1 flu vaccination program has barely even begun and reports of side-effects may shake the confidence of the public. According to the French paper Le Monde around 83 percent of the French public say they would not take the vaccine.
Similar resistance to taking the vaccine is widespread throughout the continent, from Scandanavia to Bulgaria to the Netherlands. In Germany only 13 percent of respondents to a survey said they would take the vaccine. There have only been a few reported deaths connected to the vaccine.
Meanwhile there was concern recently in the Ukraine where nearly two hundred died in what's been described as an outbreak of a new "super flu". The Sunday Express in Britain said that a "cocktail of three flu viruses" were reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague.
The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people may have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine, the Express reported. President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko called in the World Health Organization and a team of nine specialists carried out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus, samples of which were sent to London for analysis.
However, the World Health Organization says tests on the samples from Ukraine showed no significant mutation of the virus. WHO had sent an expert team to Ukraine last week after reports of the unusual flu outbreak.
The global body said Tuesday that preliminary genetic sequencing at laboratories in Britain and the United States showed that the virus in Ukraine was similar to that used for production of the pandemic flu vaccine. The Ukrainian Health Ministry has registered some 1.4 million cases of flu and respiratory illness since the start of the A/H1N1 flu outbreak. The WHO says most cases are likely to be the A/H1N1 virus and the infection rate is in line with neighbouring countries such as Russia and Poland.
AMAZING - They are STILL saying no major mutation in Ukraine AND the Vaccine made already is good for it!!
I love that there are so many people around the world Refusing the Vaccine!