Crowded East Tenn. Children's Hospital waits for H1N1 vaccine
Posted: Sep 08, 2009 4:51 PM EDT

6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) -- The emergency room at East Tennessee Children's Hospital in Knoxville is seeing a record number of patients for this time of year.

Staff members say they're seeing a new patient every four minutes. Those are numbers you'd typically see in the winter time, during the height of cold and flu season.

Inside, nurses wore protective masks Tuesday. Hospitals across the country are waiting for the H1N1 vaccine.

"What the government has told us is that there will ultimately be enough of the pandemic vaccine available for anyone who wants it. The issue is time frame. They should have about 45 million doses available in mid-October," says Dr. Lori Patterson, director of Pediatric Infectious Disease.

The first batch of vaccine is reserved for the most vulnerable. That includes children six months of age through 24, pregnant women and health care workers.

According to Dr. Patterson, the reason children are so at risk is two-fold. Younger people spread disease more easily and this strain of flu is unfamiliar to the body. That's also the reason we may need a two dose vaccine.

"If you have no pre-existing immunity, which by definition, we think we all don't, a first dose is not enough to give you protective immunity that is going to last you. What you would need is a second dose," Dr. Patterson says.

That's no different than young children getting two doses the first time they receive a seasonal flu shot.

According to Dr. Patterson, when the H1N1 vaccine arrives, you should visit your regular doctor before turning to the hospital. Supplies will be limited and high-risk patients will be first on the list.

According to Children's Hospital, the majority of flu cases the staff has seen are mild.

Parents should only bring their children to the hospital if symptoms are more severe than the common cold. If not, the staff says it's best to stay home and rest.