The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) met in emergency session this week, issued its recommendations, and set some priorities on who should be vaccinated against swine flu.

The priority groups include:

  • Pregnant women
  • People who live with or care for children younger than six months of age
  • Health-care and emergency services personnel
  • Persons between the ages of six months and 24 years
  • People aged 25-64 years who are at higher risk for swine flu because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Together, these groups represent approximately half the U.S. population (159 million people).

In the event of a vaccine shortage, the priority groups will be the first three listed above plus all children aged six months through four years as well as children aged 5-18 years who have chronic medical conditions.

Once demand for priority groups has been met, communities should vaccinate everyone aged 25-64 years. Once these younger age groups have been taken care of, individuals over age 65 should have the opportunity to be vaccinated (to date, seniors have had a lower risk of being infected with swine flu).

Keep in mind that these recommendations are for swine flu vaccine only. The CDC is also putting together a campaign to immunize the population against the regular seasonal flu with a separate vaccine. Recommendations issued recently cover some 83% of the U.S. population, including everyone aged 65 years and older. In fact, ACIP urges seniors to get the seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it’s available.

It is not surprising that pregnant women and health-care personnel are at or near the top of the priority list for swine flu vaccine, but both groups have had a notoriously poor history of getting their flu shots. Only about one in eight (12%) pregnant women gets a seasonal flu shot, and roughly 40% of health-care personnel do so.

Swine flu vaccine is given in two doses; seasonal flu is a single injection. Both swine flu and seasonal flu shots can be administered on the same day.