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.
ANOTHER INTERESTING PHENOMENON IS GOING ON WITH THE VACCINE.
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?