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H1N1 vaccine facts fight rumors

October 27, 2009

Apparently, quite a few people are concerned about the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.  In today’s NewsTalk650 poll, only 45% of respondents are planning to get the vaccination.

I don’t get this.  Why would you choose to risk getting swine flu which has a mortality rate double that of regular seasonal flu?

I’ve heard that people don’t want to be guinea pigs or that the vaccine is untested or that the vaccine has bad side effects.  So much misinformation!

Here’s how the flu vaccine works (with apologies to infectious disease doctors who could probably explain this much better):

When you are exposed to a virus or bacteria, your body produces antibodies.  The next time you are exposed to the same virus or bacteria your body can fight off the infection because you already have antibodies.  It’s like giving the police a mugshot of a criminal to stop him from committing the same crime again.

The goal of a vaccine is to cause your body to produce antibodies to an infectious agent without you actually having to be sick.  Brilliant, no?

Vaccines contain a weakened version of the virus or just part of the infectious agent to trigger the production of antibodies.

The seasonal flu vaccine and the swine flu vaccine differ only in which antigens are present.  They are produced using the same methods in the same facilities.

You are not a guinea pig if you receive the H1N1 vaccine!  The vaccine is not untested.  The influenza vaccine has been used safely worldwide for many years.

In fact, the seasonal flu vaccine actually contains an H1N1 antigen but not the one currently causing swine flu.  It also contains another influenza A antigen and one for influenza B.  The seasonal flu vaccine is different every year because it is produced to specifically provide immunity against the flu strains predicted to be most prevalent that year.  The swine flu vaccine is just an extra strain which isn’t protected for in the seasonal vaccine.

And as for that nasty side effect everyone is worried about?  Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)?  Please read this post by neurologist Steven Novella.  He very clearly explains the risk of GBS — 1 in 1 million people vaccinated.  Mortality from GBS is 3-4%.  If every single Canadian were vaccinated, 33 people might develop GBS and one person might die from it.

The case fatality rate (percent of people with the disease who die) for swine flu is estimated to be about 0.5%.  This means that for every 1000 people with swine flu five will die.

The risk of an adverse event is much higher with the flu than with the vaccine.

In fact, there are already early peaks observed in influenza-related deaths in children and pregnant women are particularly at risk.


10 Comments leave one →
  1. darcymeyers permalink
    October 27, 2009 1:13 am

    Good post…I’m also working on one. I think people shouldn’t discount the possibility that this H1N1 could transform to a more morbid strain during subsequent waves-similar to the 1918 version..

  2. October 27, 2009 8:28 pm

    I’m waiting until I’m allowed to go get one. I’m in a “risk” group (asthma) so I get to the front of the line. I haven’t had a seasonal flu shot in like 7 years but I’m all over this H1N1 shot.

  3. Michele permalink*
    October 27, 2009 9:04 pm

    I got both shots today. One in each arm.

    Just to warn you — the swine flu arm hurts more than the seasonal flu.

  4. October 28, 2009 6:27 pm

    That’s not what I wanted to hear. I’ve developed a slight fear of needles since I’ve gotten older, which really developed this year when I’ve had 3 blood tests and an IV within 6 months.

  5. Michele permalink*
    October 28, 2009 7:47 pm

    I should clarify. The shot itself doesn’t hurt but you will have a strong immune response to the swine flu vaccine. It feels as if someone very strong slugged me in the shoulder.

  6. October 28, 2009 8:38 pm

    Yeah and after I got blood taken and an IV (that took 3 tries) I looked like a heroin addict… I hate needles.

  7. Michele permalink*
    October 28, 2009 11:27 pm

    Good news then … the needle for the flu shot is tiny.
    Teeny, tiny.

    It’s done before you know it and you don’t have to watch like when they take blood.

  8. October 29, 2009 9:39 pm

    I won’t like it either way, I’m turning wimpier as I get older. Apparently I’m eligible to go next week. So I’ll be wasting away at Market Mall in line on Thursday night.

  9. Tina permalink
    November 2, 2009 9:39 pm

    I got the H1N1 shot today and it didn’t hurt as much as the seasonal flu shot. In fact, I was concerned that it didn’t hurt or cause soreness at the shot site. Usually the seasonal flu shot hurts my arm.

  10. November 4, 2009 8:33 am

    *anti-vax insanity deleted*

    Take that stuff to some other blog. Michele

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