Saturday, November 14, 2009

H1N1: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate?

Had a couple of conversations about swine flu this week (ok, H1N1). After having my crazy bout of illness after Labor Day, I've felt that was my close call this season. Totally irrational belief, but that's where my head's been at. But this week's discussions, including the imminent availability of the vaccine at my wife's school, have led me to reconsider. And for me, that means a bit of research.

* Vaccination is 1,000 times less likely to be harmful than getting the flu itself

If I'm correctly interpreting the info below, excerpted from an Examiner article, then the odds are 1,000 times greater for having a problem w/ the H1N1 than they are of having a problem with a flu vaccine. Comparison isn't perfect (using 1976 flu vaccine complications as a basis), but directionally useful, in my opinion.

How safe is it? For many people, particularly parents, this is the big question. A great deal of concern stems from vaccinations given in 1976. Of 40 million doses given, 400 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome (a syndrome involving creeping paralysis, often permanent) were reported. The cases were never absolutely linked to vaccination and it's never happened again. Researchers are keeping a close eye on this batch of vaccines. According to Bruce Gellin, director of the national vaccine program, of the10 million doses administered by late October, not one resulted in side effects more serious than soreness at the injection site or stomach aches. When weighing the pros and cons of vaccinating yourself or your child, keep in mind the facts. We know at least 1% of those infected by H1N1 will become seriously ill and may require long-term care. Meanwhile, if Guillain-Barre is a true risk of innoculation, that risk is 0.001% and, as yet, no side effects have surfaced. Also, single-dose vaccines do not contain any mercury-based preservatives. If you're still concerned (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with placing a lot of thought into this decision), talk to a health professional. You can also check out the national vaccine reporting system, by visiting VAERS'

Couple of additional reference links:

- WebMD- Is the H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine Safe?

- CDC Vaccine Q&A