Before you run to get that vaccination, Dr. Elaina George, a prominent physician out of Atlanta, wants you to ask these five questions.
In a fervent quest to prevent any ill-fated side effects from the Swine Flu vaccine, Doctor Elaina George wants every person who is considering taking the vaccination to think before you let someone prick you. Featured on news outlets like the Michael Baisden show, Dr. George, who is an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) out of Atlanta, has voiced high concerns about the vaccine that was developed so quickly, it would be hard to estimate what type of long-term effects it might have on the people who are most susceptible: pregnant women and children.
- Does the Vaccine contain additives such as mercury or squaline?
Her reason: Additives called adjuvants like mercury (thiamerisol) are added to inhibit bacterial contamination. However, some studies have implicated mercury as a cause of autism and squaline as a cause of neurological damage respectively.
- How can I avoid getting a vaccine that contains mercury?
Her reason: Ask to receive your vaccine from a single dose vial. Unlike the multiple dose vials which contain thiamerisol, the single dose vials do not contain that additive.
- Will getting the vaccine completely protect me from getting the swine flu?
Her reason: The vaccine comes in two forms—a nasal spray and an injectable liquid. The nasal form contains a live virus that has been altered (attenuated) to be less infectious. The injectable form is made from a dead form of the virus. Because there is an increased risk of actual infection, the live (attenuated) virus should not be given to individuals with compromised immune systems such as pregnant women, HIV patients, those on chemotherapy or children.
- Is the swine flu more dangerous than the seasonal flu?
Her reason: Since the outbreak of the flu this past spring, over 74 countries have documented cases of the H1N1 virus. There have been approximately 345,000 cases world wide with 4,100 deaths. Conversely, there are approximately 40,000 deaths due to the seasonal flu each year in the US. Statistics continue to suggest that the H1N1 virus is not as deadly as has been reported. To date it has been a relatively mild and self-limited infection in both adults and children.
- What are the risks and benefits of taking the vaccine?
Her reason: The mortality rate is largely associated with pneumonia caused by secondary bacterial infections. In fact secondary bacterial pneumonia was the main cause of death in the influenza pandemic of 1918. It is important to weigh the risks associated with the potential side effects of the vaccine vs. the vaccine's inability to protect from the more deadly complication of bacterial pneumonia.
To be sure, only 300 people out of the 39,000 have had any side effects—headaches and muscle cramping—of those given the H1N1 vaccine in China. Yet people are concerned about the vast amount of people expected to be injected over a very short period of time. The last time citizens of the U.S. were inoculated in mass was in 1976, against a different flu strain. People who reported getting a rare paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome, blamed the vaccination. And it's no secret that holistic doctors have long waged the battle against vaccines in children, believing that they turn perfectly healthy babies into Autisic children. The medical community, however, cautions against such tales of pendind doom, and warns people not to link every illness with the H1N1 vaccine."Every day, bad things happen to people. When you vaccinate a lot of people in a short period of time, some of those things are going to happen to some people by chance alone," said Dr. Daniel Salmon, a vaccine safety specialist at the Department of Health and Human Services in an article on MSNBC. To combat any potential misgivings, the following government agencies are prepping their sites with information:
- Harvard Medical School scientists are linking large insurance databases that cover up to 50 million people with vaccination registries around the country for real-time checks of whether people see a doctor in the weeks after a flu shot and why. The huge numbers make it possible to quickly compare rates of complaints among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, said the project leader, Dr. Richard Platt, Harvard's population medicine chief.
- Johns Hopkins University will direct e-mails to at least 100,000 vaccine recipients to track how they're feeling, including the smaller complaints that wouldn't prompt a doctor visit. If anything seems connected, researchers can call to follow up with detailed questions.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is preparing take-home cards that tell vaccine recipients how to report any suspected side effects to the nation's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting system.
- Health authorities hope to vaccinate well over half the population in just a few months against swine flu, which doctors call the 2009 H1N1 strain. That would be a feat. No more than 100 million Americans usually are vaccinated against regular winter flu, and never in such a short period.
- How many will race for the vaccine depends partly on confidence in its safety. The last mass inoculations against a different swine flu, in 1976, were marred by reports of a rare paralyzing condition, Guillain-Barre syndrome.