Local hospital has H1N1 vaccine

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A Birmingham hospital is one of two getting Alabama's first shipment of the swine flu vaccine.

Meanwhile, Alabama's top health officer asks people patience, as the vaccine isn't arriving as quickly, nor in the quantities he had wished.

Brookwood Medical Center has the vaccine. It's in the form of nasal spray.

The infectious diseases experts tell us they have 500 doses for now. And first in line for the spray was one of the hospital's vice presidents.

"I don't feel like a guinea pig, it's very well-tested," said VP of Operations Billy Conelly. "I just like to be one of the first to get it, ground-zero patient if you will. To be a role model to encourage others to get the vaccine."

One can have the contagious flu, but not exhibit symptoms for 24 hours.

It's that lag time that is a health concern for healthcare providers and it's the reason providers are at the top of the list for the vaccine.

"For patient care, we have to have the workforce we need," Connely said. "And with our staff being exposed daily, that puts them at higher risk. So of course we want to protect the staff. But we need to provide safe patient care."

"For us, it's a patient safety issue so that we don't spread the disease to our patients while we're not aware of the diagnosis," said Dr. Micheal Reymann, an infectious disease expert at Brookwood.

Dr. Reymann says pregnant women, as well as anyone who takes care of infants under 6 months old, and first responders are next on the list because babies are at a high risk for dangerous complications.

But some parents are wary of getting the vaccine because it's so new and there are fears of unintended side effects.

Dr. Reymann says there's no reason to worry.

"This vaccine, although it was brought to market relatively quickly, was not done by any different technique and is not any different than that which has been used by us routinely for influenza vaccination."

The hospital expects to have the injection form of the vaccine within a few weeks, and more nasal sprays perhaps next week.