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H1N1 Swine Flu: All About the Vaccine

The vaccine is expected to be available in mid-October. Encouraging early clinical trials indicate that the shot offers effective protection from H1N1, and that one dose might be all it takes for adults and kids ages 9 to 18. Kids under 9 may require a booster, says Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institute of Health, which is conducting clinical trials for the vaccine. "Whether kids need the second dose will depend on their prior vaccination record and the results of clinical trials in kids, expected in about a month," says Dr. Fauci. Immunity kicks in 8 to 10 days after the shot.

Parents who are worried about the vaccine being rushed to the market -- and thus not properly tested, risking unforeseen side effects later -- can rest assured, says Dr. Fauci: "The process is exactly the same as that of the seasonal flu vaccine. No corners have been cut."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some groups are higher-risk than others, and should receive the vaccine first: health care and emergency workers, pregnant women (for more on the specific risks to moms-to-be, see Swine Flu and Pregnancy), everyone aged 6 months to 24 years, along with adults up to age 64 with medical problems that put them at risk for flu complications. "To protect babies younger than 6 months old, parents and caregivers should get the shot themselves to create a cocoon effect," says Dr. Fauci. "Also, separate child from anyone who has flu symptoms." Although the regular flu shot won't protect you against H1N1, it's still a good idea to get one.