8.07.2009

H1N1 - is it worth a shot?

I have a lot of new readers lately, I'm not really sure how or why, since I've been MIA for more than a month, but Welcome! Since a lot of you newbies may not know, my blog could be categorized as a "Mommy Blog" or "Family Living Blog" but I tend to lean toward the slightly eco/green/organic side. I'm a bit crunchy, but still shave and don't smell like hemp.

Given that, I usually don't get on my soapbox and preach that the government is out to get us, or rant on and on about social concerns, or freak out about health issues. But this one IS kinda freaking me out. I view this blog as a chance to sit down and act like I'm on the phone with a close friend. So after an actual phone conversation a few days ago with one of my BFFs, I feel like I need to share, with you all, my virtual BFFs. Shall we do a group hug, hold hands and sing Cumbaya?

Okay stop singing! It's time to panic! N1H1 is coming to a town near you! This FALL! You better be prepared with a big fat shot! or not. I'm not a big fan of putting ANYTHING in my body, or my kids' bodies, that isn't meant to be there in the first place be it chemical or biological. Our bodies were created the way the are for a reason. Messing with that system, or any bio-system for that matter, is risky business. We just don't know what we don't know. But like it or not, we will soon be faced with a big choice this flu season regarding the H1N1/Swine Flu Vaccination.

The government rushed to get H1N1 vaccination massed produced and has granted the pharmaceutical companies legal immunity. (Associated Press, 7-17-09) Which means we have no idea what the side effects are short term (tests just starting and they want to start administering by October) or long term since this is brand spanking new and you need two doses before you get full immunity. Which means, after the two doses you are "fully covered" around mid-December. But rest assured Joe Citizen, they are doing these rapid tests and not taking any shortcuts, really. Don't you have full faith in Corporate America anymore? Big Business is here for YOU. Even if there are major side-effects (which we won't know for a while,) we can't do much about it, since the drug companies- not you- are protected from injury.

"The purpose of these trials is always to make sure they are safe," said Dr. Karen Kotloff, professor of pediatrics and lead investigator and researcher at Maryland's Center for Vaccine Development. "But even after six weeks, if things look good, we're pretty sure the vaccine will work." So apparently they feel confident, well "pretty sure" at least, that six weeks is enough to mark this new product as safe. In their defense, apparently this shot isn't developed much differently than the regular ol' flu shot. So fast tracking the design I understand. Fast tracking it with different components without long-term testing sounds shady.

We've had swine flu scare before. Wait, what?? Yep in 1976. And a swine flu vaccination fiasco to go right along with it when more people died from the flu shot than they did from the swine flu. In a round about way, I guess proves the vax worked? Some 500 Americans out of the 43 million vaccinated developed a rare paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barré syndrome that was most likely a immunopathological reaction to the shot. Thousands filed claims contending they suffered side effects from the shots. (AP, 7-17-09) Hence the legal immunity for phamra companies.



The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) banned Thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative with is 49% ethylmercury) from all child immunizations. (CDC Mercury FAQ) However the H1N1 vaccination will be a multi-dose shot that WILL contain Thimerosal. *There will be Thimerosal-free shots available, but finding a doctor that has them for you could be a challenge. Also, if you are preggo, most OB/GYNs don't bother with this option because the CDC doesn't say there's any need for pregnant women to avoid Thimerosal (but the FDA does say to avoid mercury.)

Speaking of the Preggos, the CDC is strongly recommending that pregnant women get the new N1H1 flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available. Pregnant women (and infants) are in the "high risk" group. (CDC, 6-30-09) but are also more susceptible in general due to a compromised immune system. And guess what, they weren't a part of the test group, so this is a TOTAL unknown.

The CDC also recommends that pregnant women receive an annual flu shot, again with Thimerosal. But the FDA categorizes it as PREGNANCY CATEGORY C (this is from the flu shot package insert) Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with Influenza Virus Vaccine. It is not known whether Influenza Virus Vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman or can affect reproduction capacity. Influenza Virus Vaccine should be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.

H1N1 has sickened more than a million people in the U.S. alone since April and circled the globe in a matter of weeks. However,"Despite a brisk flu season in the Southern Hemisphere, the new swine flu isn't yet mutating to become more dangerous," says CDC's Dr. Nancy Cox. "It's actually quite surprising that the virus is showing so little genetic variation given its rapid spread." (AP, 7-23-09) So the strain they are currently basing the vaccine on, looks like it will remain the same for the big H1N1 flu season. Good news for people already planning on getting the shot.

I'm officially confused. The shot is based on this particular strain. But this particular strain hasn't mutated to become more dangerous. It becomes more dangerous AFTER mutation and then the strain this vax is based on isn't the same as the strain causing mass infection. Am I the only one this sounds totally insane to? Maybe something is better than nothing? Or is nothing, better than something? Is the best defense basic hand washing with plain ol' soap and water, staying away from sick people as much as possible, and getting your vitamin C? Is that enough?

p.s. if you are allergic to eggs, you may have a reaction to the shot itself since, like regular flu shots, it will be egg based. (AP 7-23-09)[From the flu shot insert: CONTRAINDICATIONS: Fluzone vaccine should not be administered to anyone with known systemic hypersensitivity reactions to egg proteins (eggs or egg products), to chicken proteins, or any component of Fluzone vaccine or a life-threatening reaction after previous administration of the vaccine or a vaccine containing the same substances.]

My Disclaimer: I'm not posting this to convince you one way or another. I DO want you to get informed ANYTIME you do something to your body. I'm just a mama looking out for my family and friends. I'm not a scientist, a doctor or health professional of any kind. I'm not out to argue these points with anyone or get into a battle of wits on this (there are MANY places on-line you can find to do this.) This is just the tip of the iceberg, there are more facts, more figures if you want to go digging. If you have info to share, please do. But leave any attacks at the door TYVM.

And now back to our regularly scheduled program where I'm a techie wanabee or drooling over Strawberry Panzanella or slowly getting healthier.

* Photo courtesy of thehomsar via flickr.com

Other resources:
CDC's H1N1 site

Dr. Mercola's wrap up

US News on Women- Dealing with the Swine Flu Threat During Pregnancy

2 comments:

madgew said...

My daughter-in-law had the N1H1 flu confirmed and she was sick but recovered and is fine. Chicago (where she lives) said everyone coming into the ER had it so they stopped testing most people. The tested her because she has MRSA (community based) and it is always good to come to the hospital prepared. Addy, my grand daughter caught a very mild case from her Mom and my son was treated with Tamiflu and never got anything. They all had a flu shot as her pediatrician recommends it because of where they live. I got my first flu shot ever when I went to India. Now because I am 60, my doctor recommends it. I, like you Lisa, only like to put junk food in my body and no other chemicals:)

Janell R. said...

Thanks for the info on here. It doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is that the CDC, etc., is so shocked when people question their information and recommendations after actions like these.

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