Swine Flu Fatigue

Last modified on October 29th, 2009

To be perfectly honest, I’m kind of tired of hearing about the swine flu. Lots of people continue to talk about it on Twitter, and lots of people continue to fear monger on TV. I’ve had quite a few people suggest I should get the vaccine, and I’ve politely told everyone my reasons for why I’m not getting one.

Unfortunately in this day and age, the ease of producing content essentially ensures that the internet is filled with as much garbage as it is good. So when it comes to doing any kind of research, it takes considerable effort to try and wade through the muck in order to find the facts. That’s the case with all the nutrition research I do, as well as with all the information regarding the swine flu.

The thing is, I’ve never had a flu shot, and I haven’t had the flu since I was a kid. In fact, other than bronchitis once and a while, I rarely get sick. And yet many people I know get the flu shot every year, and quite often they still get sick that season. Maybe I have a strong immune system, and maybe it’s not related at all. But I fail to see the point in protecting myself against something that my own personal history has proven doesn’t seem to be a risk, at least for me.

Truthfully though, this whole campaign insisting everyone gets vaccinating seems completely overblown. The CDC is only reporting that the the current H1N1 flu is only a category one risk, which puts it in the same class as a normal influenza season. In fact, only 3,500 deaths have been attributed to the swine flu this year in North America, yet in a normal season, nearly 40,000 people die of the normal flu:

A spokesman for a United Nations agency told a press conference that less than 3,500 people had died so far worldwide because of the increase in infections.

Australia’s federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon also highlighted the relative mildness of the disease. “Most people, including children, will experience very mild symptoms and recover without any medical intervention,” she explained. The flu season in Australia (where it is now spring) is drawing to a close and varying reports put the number of H1N1 virus-related deaths in the country at significantly less than 200.

So why everyone is suddenly up in arms over it is beyond me. But the sudden movement to vaccinate everyone against the swine flu not only seems misguided, but it also seems dangerous. It also calls into question the whole concept of vaccines and their risks. As for me, I’m all for vaccines that have wiped out diseases like smallpox, but I really don’t think it’s wise to start inoculating everyone against every little bug we run into these days. Not only do I think that it’s potentially dangerous (given that there are very real risks associated with vaccines), but ultimately may result in everyone having weakened immune systems in the future (for example, most vaccines are introduced into the blood, which is not normally a viable entry path for most diseases — as a result, various tissues in the body don’t build up the same tolerances to the diseases that they’d acquire during a typical infection outdoors).

Even though this strain of the swine flu is appearing quite mild, the creation and testing of the vaccine is taking place at a rate that calls into question the safety of the flu shot. Sharon Frey, who is leading the government vaccine testing at St. Louis University, told the Associated Press, “Typically it takes a year to do this,” adding, “We’re working at breakneck speed.”

To cut time, corners are likely being cut: inoculations may start before the speedy trials are even over, according to the head of the flu vaccination program at the CDC. Safety tests are being fast-tracked under “public health emergency” rules.

This fast-tracking is happening worldwide. Dr. Marc Girard, a specialist in medicine who is commissioned by the French courts, told France 24 in a televised interview that the vaccine could very well cause 60,000 deaths in France alone. “We are developing a vaccine under conditions of amateurism that I have never seen before,” he said, noting that the nation’s immunization program was placing the public health in grave danger. He added that the government has a duty to protect citizens from the corrupt companies pushing their vaccines, and that people who are creating hysteria about the swine flu or promoting the vaccine have other interests. The channel’s health expert agreed with him, warning of the elevated mercury levels and other toxins in the vaccine.

A lack of testing is of more than minor concern. In the United Kingdom, the government’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) sent a letter to senior neurologists warning that the new swine flu vaccine is linked to the deadly nerve disease known as Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), the Daily Mail reported in an article entitled “Swine flu jab link to killer nerve disease.” The leaked HPA letter warned recipients to keep an eye open for GBS and report it immediately.

What’s currently going on is actually quite similar to the swine flu outbreak in 1976. During that period, the government intervened and fast tracked a vaccination program. Despite objections by people in the medical community (due to the rapid pace the vaccines were being created and deployed), the vaccination program still went ahead. Ten weeks later it was shut down due to a rash of sudden deaths, most attributed directly to the vaccine [1]

More than 500 people are thought to have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving the vaccine and 25 died. No one completely understands what causes Guillain-Barre in certain people, but the condition can develop after a bout with infection or following surgery or vaccination. The federal government paid millions in damages to people who developed the condition or their families.

However, the pandemic, which some experts estimated at the time could infect 50 million to 60 million Americans, never unfolded. Only about 200 cases of swine flu and one death were ultimately reported in the U.S., the CDC said.

And from Wikipedia:

Overall, there were 1098 cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) recorded nationwide by CDC surveillance [in 1976], 532 of which were linked to the NIIP vaccination, resulting in death from severe pulmonary complications for 25 people, which, according to Dr. P. Haber, were probably caused by an immunopathological reaction to the 1976 vaccine. Other influenza vaccines have not been linked to GBS, though caution is advised for certain individuals, particularly those with a history of GBS.

So, everyone is welcome to do what they feel is right, but I’m not getting the vaccine.

3 responses to “Swine Flu Fatigue”

  1. The biggest difference between the 1976 swine flu and the current H1N1 is that the ’76 strain never actually went much beyond Fort Dix where it was first identified, while the current one is widespread. So in that case, the GBS cases and deaths were well above anything the flu caused. Plus flu vaccines are much better tested now in general — and the ones being manufactured for this immunization program are using the same processes for adjuvanted and non-adjuvanted vaccines that have been widely used for some time in many places around the world.

    Since you’re in a low-risk group, and have a good personal history of not getting flu symptoms, you’re in the best position of almost anyone to choose not to get the vaccine, since even if you do get the virus (or a seasonal strain), chances are your flu will be mild. My kids, on the other hand, got some sort of flu full-bore last week, with fevers up around 104 F and almost the entire week out of commission. I managed to avoid catching it with some luck, and by staying in other rooms most of the time and washing my hands dozens of times a day.

    On that note, I think the best outcome of all this H1N1 hype is that people are washing their hands more and staying away from work or school if they’re sick. That’s by far the best way (much better than vaccination) to prevent the spread not only of H1N1 flu, but of the regular flu, colds, and other respiratory illnesses that are already around this time of year.

  2. VancityAllie says:

    I COMPLETELY agree with you Duane.

    It’s really just as bad as the normal flu. Thanks for digging up the facts, they really speak for themselves.

    Personally, I am 100% against vaccinations unless it’s an extreme case. This is completely biased and based on my own personal experience… I never had the flu shot growing up, and the first time I ever had it was 2.5 years ago. I had never gotten sick much, but Allan convinced me to get it, just in case. A couple weeks after receiving the flu shot, I started developing eczema which I had never had before.

    2.5 years later, my eczema is horrible and I get the flu much more often and a lot worse than ever before.

    I realize that these could be completely unrelated, but in my personal opinion (and my naturopath’s), this seems to have really messed up my immune system.

    So from now on, I stay clear.

    I wanted to echo Derek’s sentiments though… the one good thing is that people are washing their hands more and thinking more about personal health. This is good.

    P.S. Sick people, please stay home when you are sick. Don’t work 🙂

  3. The H1N1 and flu vaccines are at least in the realm of reasonable debate about whether you should get them or not, but other vaccines like measles, mumps, rubella, polio, and so on are not. Those are horrible and often lethal diseases that are kept at bay by vaccination programs; in areas where people opt out of immunizations in large enough numbers, the diseases return, and people (including children) get very sick and sometimes die or suffer permanent disability. We were fortunate in being able to eliminate smallpox altogether 32 years ago, but the other viruses are still around.

    As is chickenpox, which sometimes seems like not such a big deal, until you get it at an older age (15) like I did and nearly have to be hospitalized; or get it heavily, like Brent Simmons did; or it comes back decades later as shingles, as it did for my wife and my father (if it comes back in a facial nerve, shingles can blind you). I’m relieved that my kids were vaccinated and are at much lower risk of chickenpox itself or shingles later in life.

    The risk profiles are different and more complicated for flu vaccines, and HPV, and some of the newer immunizations. But the standard childhood vaccine panel has saved hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of lives. We should not forget that.

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