Authored by Sylvia Cochran in Medicine
Published on 12-11-2009
The H1N1 pandemic – known initially as the swine flu – acts similar to the regular flu but for the noted difference that it most seriously affects children. While the seasonal flu is known to demand lives in the elderly population, children usually recover; not so with H1N1. Making matters worse, vaccine shortages have led to unusual rumors being generated around the preventative shots or nasal spray. Examining the H1N1 vaccine pros and cons may lead to some startling discoveries.
For example, did you know that the vaccine used in Europe and the United States differs? Outside the US, a substance referred to as squalene – an adjuvant – is added to most doses. Here this substance is banned from being used in vaccines. There have been some speculations that this makes the American versions of the vaccine less effective, but there is little proof.
In Los Angeles, there is a noted absence of African Americans in the waiting lines for the vaccines. News broadcasts advise the African American community to get out the word that the vaccines are urgently recommended for the targeted high risk groups. Concurrently, the Reverend Louis Farrakhan warned his followers against accepting the shots, since – according to his world view – there was no telling what might be contained within the shot.
It is unclear if his words made such an impact on L.A.’s African American community, or if it is merely the fact that the availability of vaccine doses is hit or miss, and most folks just cannot afford to take time off work just to be turned away after hour long waits. As a matter of fact, the long wait lines – sometimes with sick individuals – and the uncertainty of actually receiving the shot have added to the practice of placing the vaccination on the con side of the list.
It stands to reason that getting members of the high risk groups – the very young, pregnant women and the elderly – vaccinated is an absolute must. Sure, there are side effects – some potentially fatal – but the inherent danger of the virus to children alone makes it necessary to vaccinate. Even the minimal amounts of mercury potentially contained in the vaccine cannot do the kind of damage a severe H1N1 infection can do to a child. A potential mark for the con side is a family history that shows genetic predisposition for dystonia, autism or Guillain-Barré syndrome. In such cases it may be wise to think long and hard if the treatment with the vaccine may not be too risky.
Of course, no amount of conjecture or personal research can truly make up for a serious heart to heart with a family physician. If you are currently on the fence about the H1N1 vaccine, pros and cons may not satisfactorily come down on one side or another. It is then that only a trusted doctor can help you make an educated decision on the advantages and disadvantages, potential risks and also likely benefits. Do not rely on the latest Internet hype or news report to make your decision. Remember that your health, case history and also genetic predisposition are unique to you, and a statement made on the ‘Net or elsewhere may not even apply to you.