H1N1 Vaccine – Why Is This A Controversy?

Filed in National by on October 19, 2009

On Friday my children brought home permission slips to receive the H1N1 vaccine.  I completed them immediately, but, then again, my brother is an immuno geneticist so we had this discussion months ago.  Actually, had the vaccine been ready months ago I wouldn’t have spent the evening filling out permission slips because my kids would have already been vaccinated.

H1N1 isn’t child’s play, although it is hitting children.  Hard.

And yet…  “Overall, Pew’s poll numbers mesh with an earlier poll that found a third of the parents in this country say they will refuse to vaccinate their children against a possibly lethal virus.”

And yet… ” According to data released by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, in the week that ended last Saturday, 11 more children died from the H1N1 influenza virus. In a typical flu season, between 46 and 88 children die. 86 children have died since April (with 43 of those deaths happening over just the last 47 days), and we’re just getting into the main run of flu season.”

(h/t rimjob at kos for spelling it out in no uncertain terms.  GO READ THE ENTIRE DIARY)

And yet… we, as a nation, spend a lot of time worrying over our children being abducted by a stranger (Odds of that happening:  aprrox. 1 in 347,000) than we do over H1N1 whose scariest trait (to me, at least) is how it’s targeting those under 25.

And the reasons for not vaccinating are, yet again, not based on science.  The NYT debunks the myths.

SWINE FLU VACCINE IS UNSAFE The H1N1 virus revealed itself too late for it to be included in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine. But the H1N1-specific vaccine was manufactured in the same way as the regular vaccine: The shot form is made by growing the virus in hen’s eggs, purifying it and then treating it with a chemical that inactivates it. This technology has been used to make influenza vaccines for 60 years, and it has an excellent safety record. The nasal spray form is made by adapting the virus to temperatures below those typically found in the body. This allows it to reproduce in the relatively cool lining of the nose, but not in the lungs where it could cause harm. This technology has been used safely for more than 30 years. FluMist, a seasonal flu vaccine used since 2003, is made the same way.

THE VACCINE IS UNTESTED The H1N1 vaccine has already been given to thousands of volunteers to determine whether it could protect them from the virus and to make sure that it caused no adverse reactions. Only then did the Food and Drug Administration license it.

THE VACCINE CONTAINS A DANGEROUS ADJUVANT Some vaccines, like the hepatitis B and human papillomavirus vaccines, have substances called adjuvants, which are added to enhance the immune response, so that smaller quantities of vaccine can be given. Some people fear that the H1N1 vaccine contains, in particular, squalene, an adjuvant that, while included in other vaccines in Europe and Canada, has never been used in routine vaccines in the United States. But the H1N1 vaccine available in the United States has no adjuvant of any kind.

THE VACCINE HAS A DANGEROUS PRESERVATIVE Thimerosal, a preservative containing ethyl mercury that has been in vaccines since the 1930s, is used to prevent inadvertent bacterial and fungal contamination of multi-dose vials. H1N1 vaccine distributed in multi-dose vials will contain about 25 micrograms of ethyl mercury per dose. The issue of thimerosal received public attention in 1999 when the American Academy of Pediatrics and the United States Public Health Service took the precautionary step of asking that thimerosal be removed from single-dose vials of all vaccines. This was done in such a precipitous and frightening manner that it gave rise to the notion that thimerosal had led to autism or mercury poisoning. It hadn’t.

And then there’s the thought that H1N1 is just another version of the run of the mill flu and not unusually deadly.

“Not unusually deadly.”  Oh good, then we can expect only ~36,000 people to die from it this year!  Why does that number not reassure me?

Let’s see, it circulated during the Summer, when flu doesn’t circulate, is uncommon in the elderly, is disproportionately infecting and hospitalizing younger people, it has a much higher incidence of ARDS requiring mechanical ventilation and heart-lung bypass (ECMO) than its seasonal counterpart (Australia reported 68 cases requiring ECMO vs. 4 the prior year), and it has a population which under the age of 60 is nearly 100% susceptible.  Yep, sounds like any old flu to me.

And the CDC calls the levels of illness “unprecedented”, and that “about half of the deaths that we’ve seen in children since September 1st have been occurring in teens between the ages of 12 and 17.  These are very sobering statistics, unfortunately, they are likely to increase.”

But, point that bothers me the most… we don’t understand why it is targeting younger people.  Yes, there are theories, but none have been proven.  What we do know is that this flu is behaving differently, and may continue to do so.  And that’s not panic or hype, that’s fact.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to take information found on the internet with a grain of salt, which is why I emailed my brother again – a scientist with a pharma company who is not only annoyingly pragmatic but applies the less is more approach when it comes to pharmaceuticals.   His response was simple:

Get the shots. We will, including Sarah.

Sarah is my brother’s six year old daughter.  I  sent the permission slips in today.


According to Pew, there is a partisan split on the vaccine. To wit, 60 percent of Democratic respondents said that they would get the vaccine and 34 percent said they would not. Conversely, only 41 percent of Republicans said they would take the vaccine while 54 percent said that they would not. (Warning for Democrats: Independents have the same 41-54 split.)

Could someone explain to me how H1N1 is a partisan issue?


About the Author ()

A stay-at-home mom with an obsession for National politics.

Comments (32)

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  1. I’m getting the vaccine as soon as I’m allowed. I’m more worried about getting the virus before I can get the vaccine.

    Right now there’s anti-vax hysteria going on and it’s being promoted by celebrities. The flu vaccine is caught up in that.

  2. RSmitty says:

    Could someone explain to me how H1N1 is a partisan issue?

    P – While I don’t think mainstream and moderate R’s are really an issue, the bag-o-nuts© and close associates seriously have claimed that the H1N1 vaccine is an attempt by the administration to poison Americans. Seriously. I wish there were a vaccine for paranoia-driven fantasy.

  3. Mark H says:

    Pandora, is your School District giving the shot or the breathable vaccination (whatever that’s really called). The 5 year old’s school is not giving the shot but the other type. Problem with that is that two treatments of the vaccine have to be given.

  4. Yes, Glenn Beck is driving a vaccine conspiracy. Also, if you watch the whole Crazy Eileen/Mike Castle video, vaccine conspiracies come out there.

  5. anonone says:

    Can you smoke pot while you get it?

  6. pandora says:

    Mark, my kids are older so they will receive the shot.

  7. Progressive Mom says:

    Do you actually have H1N1 vaccine available in your state/school district?

    My county in NY has received 1,000 total doses. 1,000. The health department isn’t releasing them because they don’t have a fair way to distribute a mere 1,000 doses.

    This, in a state whose legislature has mandated that all patient care workers and volunteers get vaccinated.

  8. anon says:

    Republicans would rather die than get a government approved vaccine. Paranoi runs deep in the GOP. After all, they’d rather put their health in the hands of for-profit insurance companies whose huge profits come from denying coverage.

  9. pandora says:

    Good question, PM. The permission forms are due by this Friday and the district says it “will send a reminder flyer home with your child a few days before the vaccination clinic at your school.” Hmmm… kinda vague. I’ll look into it.

  10. RSmitty says:

    UI –

    Also, if you watch the whole Crazy Eileen/Mike Castle video, vaccine conspiracies come out there.

    That is the common source. It is crowed about in many bag-o-nuts© circles now.

  11. Joanne Christian says:

    Let me help Pandora–PM, our state has contracted for all our school districts to innoculate children thru middle school. This includes private and parochial schools too. If the district or school agrees to be part of the outreach, a public health team will come in on an assigned day to administer at no charge during school hours. The difficulty lies in the numbers–right now the projected volume needed and what is on hand will take well into December to administer. Then there is the re-visit for the wee ones. Districts did have the option to opt out. High schoolers were being referred to their PMD for services. But this changes daily–and I’m sure high schoolers will be included in short order–but at a later date than the younger ones. There is plenty in the first Delaware shipment to get started w/ the first roll-out. But we have all been briefed (in the updates), we won’t be up to full supply until December. Hope that helps. Keep in mind, the schools’ cooperation eases the healthcare load of offices and clinics at this time of heightened public sentiment, alleviating the bottlenecking of care for those who are sick.

  12. pandora says:

    Thanks, Joanne. Also, my 10th grader received a permission slip as well. Looks like BSD is including High Schools. Depending on the date of school vaccination, I might just have it administered at their yearly check-up which is scheduled for the first week in November.

  13. Progressive Mom says:

    Joanne– That is really great. I don’t know what the problem is here. Answers are vague and difficult to come by. There is no plan for in-school innoculations; private pediatricians do not know when vaccine will be available or in what quantities.

    We have had very few reported cases in our area (although I am told that most peds are not testing to see what kind of flu a kiddo has, because our insurers aren’t paying for testing).

    Thanks for the info … I wonder why we’re on the short end of the stick.

  14. Joanne Christian says:

    Like I said Pandora-it’s changing daily. I am at an “international” high school so to speak–and we received priortized standing based on our demographics back in the summer. I’m checking my updates now that you mention your 10th grader–and see that–high schoolers will now be included–but I’ll betcha at a later date….who knows….SQUAWK LOUDER PANDORA!!!:)

  15. grazip says:

    H1N1 Vaccine Locations!

    WASHINGTON (AP) – There will be enough doses of H1N1 vaccine
    to go around the United States, Health and Human Services
    Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Thursday. She said that
    at least 6 million doses of vaccine will be available in
    the United States during the first week of October…

    More Update –> http://grazip.blogspot.com/2009/10/h1n1-vaccine-locations.html

  16. Progressive Mom says:

    I just recalled our pediatrician. No vaccine in the county. No information on when it will be available.

  17. The first swine flu vaccine killed and paralyzed people. This one is different, but memories are long. This is virtually untested and rumor says it contains mercury (multi-dose versions do contain a preservative made with mercury, thimerosal)which scares many people.

    Over all I would get it and think people should unless they have a negative indicator. I would get the single dose version without the thimerosal.

    H1N1 is far less deadly than the regular flu so not getting the vaccine is a viable choice. Getting the vaccine does not mean that you will not get the flu anyway.

  18. pandora says:

    Where to begin, David. Untested? Less deadly? Oh nevermind. It’s just not worth it.

  19. Why have you folks got a problem with informed consent for parents before kids receive medical treatment? Do you really believe that the government should be permitted to force medical treatment?

  20. pandora says:

    Please show me where anyone here (or in this post) has called for mandatory treatment. Hint: You can’t, therefore you have no point other than, once again, setting up your very own strawman.

  21. Joanne Christian says:

    pandora-RWR might be referring to “some” state laws and employers may require vaccination for certain persons–it is on the distributed CDC/DHHS leaflet given out. So far, Delaware isn’t one of those states–but I don’t know where RWR is from.

  22. Progressive Mom says:

    Sorry, RWR, there’s no forced treatment of minors. Signed parental consent is required for all vaccinations.

    In many states, a TB test is required before employment in patient care. In many, many corporations, a physical and drug test are mandatory before employment is secure. Do you really think that a corporation should force a person who is not even an employee and has no employment guarantee to give up precious bodily fluids or be injected with stuff!!? Sounds like socialism.

    Oh, wait, I guess it’s only socialism if the government does requires. Otherwise, it’s capitalism. Which is next to godliness.

  23. pandora says:

    Joanne, RWR asked “Why have you folks got a problem with informed consent for parents before kids receive medical treatment?” That has nothing to do with adults. He completely ignored the content of the post – which mentioned permission slips several times – and set off on one his shadow boxing exercises.

    BTW, RWR lives in Texas.

  24. Joanne Christian says:

    I know, I know…but some states have stricter childhood vaccination laws than us–and we are stricter than some other states. For instance…HPV is required in some states, but not here. And then we are stricter about “refusing” school entry immunizations than PA. It’s all fine lines. Just trying a lil’ tolerance Pandora :).

  25. pandora says:

    I know where you’re coming from, Joanne. I’m just stopping RWR from hijacking my thread. There’s a topic on the table. I’m not following him down the rabbit hole.

    Also, I’m having trouble finding states that require HPV.

  26. Joanne Christian says:

    Not to change the subject though from H1N1 to HPV–TEXAS was the first state to mandate all incoming 6th graders to get HPV–I think 2007. Maybe it’s repealed now. But may be the source ironically of RWR’s discontent.

  27. Actually, Rick Perry mandated HPV vaccines for all sixth-grade incoming girls — and the Texas legislature shot it down the next legislative session after opposition from real conservatives and advocates of liberty like myself.


  28. kimberly says:

    I don’t think that it is paranoid driven frenzy nor do I think that any vaccine should be taken blindly.

    Yes vaccines are great and have reduced the number of diseases affecting the Western world. But the scientific process is not without its flaws and over vaccination is a real issue. For many, we have already been exposed to stuff and our immune systems are already knowledgeable. We also know that taking too many at the same time can be detrimental. We know that there are safety concerns for all vaccines. The paranoid driven frenzy as some put it are based on these concerns and deaths from innoculations. These concerns are not addressed.

    How should we protect ourselves? Realize that vaccines are drugs. Ask for blood titers to be performed so you know what you are immune to already on a regular basis. Refrain from taking drugs (if you have to ask your doctor about side effects) and supplements for a few days before and after. Do not take more than one vaccine at a time. Be aware of any food contraindications.

    Personally, the whole controversy would go away if the CDC and vaccine companies for once properly address the problems with taking more than one vaccine at a time and take a more human approach to those affected by merely taking the vaccines in the first place. i.e. those killed by gardasil. Sometimes you have to go out of the bounds of the scientific method when dealing with society.

  29. Brooke says:

    Well, I don’t think it’s a limitation of the scientific method. I do think our strategies for balancing things like the economic and political pressure that originates with Big Pharma with the need for independent review needs work.

  30. Dan says:

    Maybe it’s a controversy because of the poisonous mercury in the ‘vaccine’?

    Or maybe it’s a controversy because the ‘data’ on the ‘epidemic’ is over-blown?
    The Finnish have downgraded the H1N1 ‘threat’:

    Even CBS News thinks something is up:

    Either way is enough for a controversy.

  31. sunnynights68 says:

    Thanks Pandora for a well written article. I am still on the fence but am swaying towards getting it for my kids. I did read somewhere that 99% of people who get H1N1 it will be fine. A lot of people I talk to assume the 1% who do die/hospitalized had an underlying medical condition but those ‘conditions’ arent making the news. Besides, how do you know if you have an underlying medical condition until something does happen?

    Thanks to Dan who posted the links, I am still researching both sides.