Category — swine flu vaccine
I have never been comfortable being a “dissident” and I don’t identify myself as one. It isn’t my nature to be comfortable standing out in a crowd because my beliefs differ from those of the majority. Those who know me would say that I am usually most comfortable blending in and making my waves behind the scenes.
At this moment, however, I find myself sticking my neck out during the biggest mass-vaccine campaign in American history with the counter-message of “Make your own decision.” Is that really so radical? And while there is some discomfort for me personally in being identified as one who is sharing a message that is not universally held, my need to educate and assuage fear is overpowering my need to protect my ego.
I have been immersed in research about the Swine Flu steadily for a month now. I have read scientific studies, watched television reports, followed the CDC and WHO, read mainstream medical advice, read alternative medical advice, read articles and interviews, and personally interviewed medical professionals whom I trust. In my post of Oct. 5 on the Swine Flu I made a blanket statement that one should not get the swine flu shot. Due to my continued research on the topic I feel the need to qualify that statement for several reasons:
1) Squalene is not present in the swine flu shot in the US although it was present in the trial vaccine and is present in doses in Europe. The presence of squalene was one of my reasons for cautioning against the Swine Flu shot. There is Thimerosol present however, a mercury-based preservative, in the multi-dose vials of the H1N1 vaccine. It is not present in single dose vials. People who want to avoid thimerosal-containing Swine Flu and seasonal flu vaccines must get the FluMist or the single dose shots. medicinenet.com While everyone should have this choice, single dose vaccines may not be available for every person in every location during every week of the vaccination campaign. The FDA has stated its continuing efforts to remove thimerosol from all vaccines, in particular for children under the age of 6. The reason that it is present in the H1N1 vaccine, and in the regular flu shot in general, is due to expediency of vaccine production.
2) The uncertainty of this disease is more than some people can take. Will I get it? Will I not? What if I do? What if I don’t get the shot but I get really sick or make someone in my family really sick? How do I best protect my family and who will take care of the kids if I am sick? The list goes on and on. I feel that for many people their belief in and sense of security around vaccines can outweigh the “what-if’s” of developing the disease, and in these cases the ease of mind that comes with the belief system “I am vaccinated therefore protected” can mitigate a lot of stress which could make one more susceptible to illness. These are people who, after doing their work around the safety and efficacy of flu shots, may consider getting a vaccine simply to ease their mind. I have great concerns about children under the age of 9 receiving two Swine Flu shots, which is what has been shown in trials to be necessary for an immune response for that age group. Especially if they are also receiving 2 regular flu shots this year. I would caution parents to exercise their right to request thimerosol-free vaccine, and to ask their doctor a lot of questions, including seeing the package insert that comes with each vial of vaccine and making note of the company who makes the vaccine, the lot and batch number, date of production and any other identifiying information, a list of all ingredients, and possible side-effects, in case there is a vaccine reaction.
3) I can be naive when it comes to the general health of most Americans. While the optimist-naturopathic doctor in me would like to think that most folks take probiotics, Vitamin D3 and cod liver oil every day, stock up on Zinc and Vitamin C, eat whole foods, exercise, rest, drink water and generally pay attention to their overall health and well-being (see my blog posting of 10/5/09), I know that most do not. So perhaps it was irresponsible of me to suggest that one not get the vaccine without better knowledge of the immune and overall health status of my readers. I do believe that one can turn one’s health around quickly by making simple dietary and lifestyle changes and this is ultimately what I urge my readers and my patients to do, but if one isn’t willing to do the work, perhaps they should protect themselves and those around them with a vaccine.
4) I have since learned more about why pregnant women are especially vulnerable to the flu. In addition to being generally immune compromised there is an increase of blood and fluids in their bodies everywhere including the lungs. As well the diaphragm pushes up on the lungs during pregnancy causing compression and decreased lung volume, decreased lung function and compromises the lung’s ability to clear out pathogens leading to a greater possibility of secondary infections. Keep in mind that these physical conditions are present for all pregnant women whether or not a flu epidemic is brewing.
While pregnant women are, along with other immune-compromised folks, or perhaps more importantly their family members, the only people on my list who might consider the swine flu vaccine if this pademic ever really gets off the ground, I feel very strongly that these populations (and anyone at all receiving a Swine Flu Shot) request a vaccine WITHOUT THIMEROSOL.
Having said that, the H1N1 vaccine has not been tested on pregnant women, nursing women, and children according to vaccine package inserts. Also according to flu vaccine package insert, immune compromised folks and those taking immunosuppressive drugs may not have a beneficial and protective immune response from the vaccine. Yet children, pregnant women and immune compromised people are the populations being targeted by the H1N1 Vaccine campaign.
Getting a vaccine does not guarantee prevention of the flu. A vaccine will help the body launch an immune response which may be enough to prevent one from getting sick or it may give the body’s body’s immune response a head start so that symptoms are lessened; you get sick, but less severely and for a shorter duration.
Yet in July the CDC stopped tracking the spread of Swine Flu and created a new reporting system. The rationale was: why waste resources testing for H1N1 flu when the government has already confirmed there’s an epidemic? The new reporting system, up and running as of Oct. 1, lumps together all influenza-like illness including influenza A (of which Swine flu is one) pneumonia, and influenza B. As an example: I was looking at the U.S. statistics for the week of Oct 10-17 on the CDC website. There were 12,943 cases tested for influenza nationally, 4,844 were positive for H1N1, 11 were Influenza B, the rest (8,000) were undetermined. If 8,000, or 2/3, of tests performed were negative for Swine Flu, where is the epidemic? And why are we lumping together all influenza-like illness (ILI) when we haven’t even hit the high season for Influenza B yet? And what about the other 8,000 unidentified illnesses? Aren’t they the cause of most illness?
A study released by Purdue University Researchers and published in the Oct. 15 edition of the European Scientific Journal Eurosurveillance, claims that at this point the vaccine will have little effect on the number of infections because as much of 60% of the population has already been infected. The researchers went on to report that up to 60% of seasonal influenza infections are asymptomatic. That means that one may not present with classic flu symptoms, or have any symptoms at all, but will still be building antibodies against the seasonal virus.
Yet, although the CDC is no longer counting cases, they are recommending that anyone with “presumed” H1N1 without a lab test, even if diagnosed by a doctor, still get the H1N1 vaccine.
So let me make sure I got this right: the CDC stopped counting H1N1 cases in August saying that it wasted too many resources to keep up with the mounting pandemic, so they suggested that all influenza-like-illness be lumped into one category. Many, including CBS news after three months of investigation, believe that H1N1 numbers are overestimated as the cause of most ILI this fall. And the Purdue researchers say that most folks have already been exposed to H1N1 and as a result the timing of vaccine so late in the pregression of the epidemic may not prove to help quell numbers at all. The CDC says that Swine Flu numbers are underrepresented due to the small fraction of cases being tested and reported, suggesting that much higher numbers have been infected, yet still recommends mass-vaccination except in cases where one has had a positive H1N1 test.
If your head isn’t spinning by now you aren’t paying attention!!
Many scientists believe the cause of death in the Swine Flu pandemic of 1918 was primarily bacterial due to secondary illness, not viral. The theory is that the swine flu weakened the immune system making it more vulnerable to further attack by the regular slate of opportunistic pathogens such as respiratory syncytial virus, bocavirus, coronavirus and rhinovirus that cause the symptoms known as “influenza-like illness”. It is common, in a flu season, to have no known cause for up to 2/3 of “flu” cases.
The other thing that really concerns me about this supposed epidemic and its relationship to the vaccine, is the protection, or immunity from liability, that the American government has granted the five vaccine manufacturers. If we are so certain about the efficacy and safety of this vaccine that we are putting our pregnant women and children on the front lines, why then aren’t the vaccine manufacturers held responsible?
Ultimately I believe that the public health goal is a noble one, to protect the rights and lives of all people. I believe that individuals, under expert advisement, should make their own decisions about their health, not the government. I believe that there is no better way for the American Government to ensure the safety of the American people than by educating them about their health options and empowering them to choose what is best for themselves and their children. So far we still have that freedom despite the current pressure of the U.S. vaccine campaign. Let’s stick our necks out and make ourselves uncomfortable to keep it that way.
October 29, 2009 1 Comment
The media is a powerful tool with influence over great masses of people. The Swine Flu scare is a perfect example of hype and misinformation. There is only one perspective made available in the mainstream media, one of fear and alarmism. When it comes to health information sometimes one must dig to get both sides of the issue.
To my suprise I didn’t have to dig very deep to find a reliable source for the actual statistics of this disease: the CDC.
The good news
The CDC website claims that there is an increase in ILI or “influenza-like illness” for this time of year characterized by classic influenza symptoms: fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, body aches and sometimes vomiting. Hospital rates are higher for this time of year but lower than during a seasonal influenza outbreak. A very interesting statistic is the number of deaths from influenza and pneumonia are “low and within the bounds of what is expected for this time of year.” This is significant because this time of year is not one where we typically see influenza – so if the deaths are low to normal while H1N1 is spreading, that is encouraging and reflective of a milder illness than we have been fearing.
More good news: H1N1 is proving to be sensitive to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. You may find it reassuring that if you or a family member becomes very ill with Swine Flu, these conventional medications are available to thwart the progression of the virus. It is important, however, that one not use these medications unless very ill, as resistant strains of the virus can develop if antivirals are overused.
The bad news is that the the rates of infection continue to rise as this is a very contagious illness. The other bad news is the hype is causing people to unnecessarily visit emergency rooms with mild illness, creating the need for temporary tents to handle the increased demand for care and to keep the infected away from those with more serious health problems for whom H1N1 could be disastrous: the immune compromised, those with asthma and heart conditions, the very old and the very young.
The CDC states the following guidelines for when to seek medical care:
“A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures).” The CDC also states: “supportive care at home, such as resting, drinking plenty of fluids, and using a pain reliever for aches – is adequate for recovery in most cases.”
This disease is proving mild enough that the vaccine is not necessary and could have long-term effects much worse than the temporary inconvenience of the illness. It is important to keep in mind that the H1N1 vaccine is still experimental and short and long-term risks have not yet been identified. H1N1 vaccine trials began August ’09 and will continue for 13 months. In 1976 during the last Swine Flu outbreak, 43 million people were vaccinated with a then still experimental vaccine. In addition to the outbreak never really materializing (the illness did not spread beyond 240 soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ), 500 Americans came down with a rare neurodegenerative condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome which many experts believe was linked to the vaccine. Twenty-five of those 500 died. In addition some experts believe that “Gulf War Syndrome” is related to the antibody reaction to the adjuvant “squalene” in the then still experimental Anthrax Vaccine. This has been a hotly debated topic over the years especially since soldiers who never saw combat also had symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome.
The Seattle Times reported 10/1/09 that the State of Washington’s Health Dept has temporarily suspended the FDA rule that limits the amount of mercury preservative Thimerosol given to pregnant women and children under the age of 3. The stated reason for the additional mercury is to kill bacteria that could be be present on the needle when it is introduced to withdraw the medication. We do not have good studies that explore the effects of thimerosol on pregnant women and young children as these are populations excluded from vaccine trials.
As well there is a laundry list of additional potential ingredients including preservatives, antibiotics and additional viruses. The vaccine for the swine flu trials contains MF59, or “squalene”, an adjuvant (substance added to a vaccine to improve the immune response so less vaccine is needed) that is not FDA approved. This ingredient is not listed in the ingredients list of the swine flu vaccine available to the public, therefore the vaccines used in the trials and the vaccines for the public are different. Changing the ingredients from trial to mass production is a common practice in vaccine development. The public will be unwilling members of an experimental drug trial by receiving the vaccine.
There is recent information from Canadian scientists indicating that those who received the regular flu shot last flu season are twice as likely to contract the swine flu this season. This is considered controversial information as the data has not been officially published and is being debated by the experts. I do feel that it is significant information however and should be factored into the decision to vaccinate or not.
More Good News: Natural Treatment and Prevention
1) Probiotics (good “gut bugs”) – are an effective way to reduce the effects of illness in children. A recent study published in the Journal Pediatrics revealed that daily dietary probiotic supplementation is effective in warding off colds and flu. In the study the children aged 3-5 who received probiotic therapy had 50-70% fewer colds and flu compared to the control group who did not receive any probiotic therapy. This is a very significant finding as up until now the only natural agents that I have known to be proven to shorten the duration of viruses are Vitamin C, Zinc and Elderberry. There is now good data to show that probiotics prevent AND shorten the duration of illness. Yee Haw! One per day for adults and children.
2) Vitamin D3 – almost two-thirds of the children who have died of the Swine Flu have had epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental conditions like mental retardation. What these conditions have in common is that they are all associated with Vitamin D deficiency. There is a great story on the Vitamin D Council website of a residential care facility in Wisconsin which treats with and regularly monitors the vit. D levels of its residents. Recently the Swine Flu hit their area very hard and only 2 of 275 residents contracted it, while 103 staff members whose vitamin D levels were not monitored and treated did contract the disease. It is important to remember that the active form of Vitamin D is “D3 or Cholecalciferol” – D2 is not as biologically available and may not convert to the active form of Vit. D in the tissues.
Dr Waddell of the Vitamin D Council suggests 1,000 IU Vitamin D3 per 25 lbs of body weight as a maintenance dose. It is important to monitor serum levels of Vitamin D3 to make sure that they are at optimal levels.
3) Elderberry Extract – Long-used as an immunity enhancer, we now know that it also prevents viral replication by smoothing down the spikes (hemagluttinin) on the surface of a virus used to puncture through healthy cell walls. A product called DART Immunity Take Care by New Chapter/New Mark is something that my patients and family have benefitted from for a couple years now. It is your own personal anti-viral in a delicious, berry flavored tablet. Most kids are happy to chew them and one/day is all it takes when you are feeling ill or have been exposed to a virus. A must for every home medicine cabinet. Take one lozenge when you have been exposed to a virus or someone in your home is ill.
4) Vitamin C and Zinc – These two time honored immune soldiers don’t get enough appreciation. Both have been shown to shorten the duration of common colds and viruses by boosting natural immunity. Vit. C also acts as a natural antihistamine that helps dry up watery eyes and reduce nasal and chest congestion. It is also a powerful antioxidant that can help prevent and clean-up the damage that a body endures when fighting viruses and bacteria. Vitamin C, with bioflavonoids: 1,000 mg every few hours throughout the day, up to bowel tolerance. (Vit C can cause loose stools, so reduce amount as necessary).
Zinc lozenges, preferably with 3 mg copper, every few hours, up to 70 mg daily during a cold and 30 mg daily as a preventive.
Children: under 25 lbs take ¼ of adult dose, 25 – 50 lbs take 1/3 of adult dose.
5) Homeopathic Remedies – Homeopathy is a deep-acting and profound system of medicine that is based on the Law of Similars that has been in use for over 200 years. Homeopathic remedies do not treat the disease directly but stimulate the body to re-balance and heal itself. See separate posting on homeopathic remedies for colds and flu.
6) Oscillococcinum – Studies have shown that this combination homeopathic preparation is effective against the very first signs of flu. To be taken as soon as chills, fever, aches, etc start. Found in health food stores. Follow the directions on the box. Completely non-toxic and safe for kids.
The Take Home
The H1N1 flu, or “Swine Flu” – is a virus. It is a new one, so in addition to the “flu” virus that goes around every year (Influenza B) we now have another one to contend with (Influenza A). The good news is that most health authorities, including the CDC, agree that it is “mild” and in most cases even milder than the annual flu that we hide from every year. Prevention is the best medicine, so by boosting your vitamin D levels, taking probiotics regularly, and stocking up on natural remedies such as DART immune, vitamin C, Zinc and homeopathic remedies you and your family can breathe a sigh of relief that you are taking steps that can increase your family’s chances of staying healthy. Good old fashioned hand-washing is also a very effective way to prevent spread. I have my children wash their hands as soon as they come home from school every day, and take a probiotic…
October 5, 2009 7 Comments