HONOLULU (KHNL) - Hawaii's first responders get ready for what could be, one of the worst flu seasons in a generation. Medical personnel at the Queen's Medical Center received the H1N1 vaccine Tuesday morning. The goal is to make sure they're healthy enough to treat flu patients.
Nurses are among the first to see patients who walk into the ER. That's why they want to protect themselves as much as they can from swine flu.
The Queen's ER is the busiest emergency department in the state, seeing close to 4,200 patients every month. That number could go way up this flu season because of the H1N1 virus.
"We need to be prepared," said Cedric Caagbay, a registered nurse. "It's going to hit our staffing as well."
That's why Caagbay and the vast majority of nurses here -- about 95 percent -- are getting the H1N1 vaccine.
"I want to be available if that surge does come and people do get sick, we do need to be available to be here," said Caagbay, who is an operations manager at the Queen's ER.
That surge has already happened on the mainland, crippling some cities. It's killed close to 300 people since September.
Of those, 24 percent are under 25; 65 percent are between 25 and 64; and only 12 percent of those who died from swine flu are over 65. That's compared to 90 percent of the same age group who die from seasonal flu.
And more children have died from swine flu so far, than from seasonal flu in an entire season.
It's important to keep in mind getting the H1N1 vaccine does not protect you from regular seasonal flu just as getting the regular seasonal flu vaccine does not protect you from swine flu.
Kathy Anzelon is also protecting herself from the H1N1 virus. She's getting ready for a very busy flu season, filled with peaks and valleys.
"So we're like on our third peak right now of the amount of patients that are coming in with the flu which is something we haven't seen," she said.
Some healthcare workers chose not to get the swine flu vaccine, saying they have concerns about the ingredients and whether or not it's been tested enough.
"I think some people don't get it because they're either afraid of the shot, or, 'Oh my gosh, I'm going to get the H1N1 if I get the vaccine,'" said Anzelon. "So it's an education process."
If they don't get it now, and change their minds later, it may be too late.
"We also need to understand that it is distributed and prioritized," said Caagbay. "So even if we decide later that we do want it, it may not be available."