Dilemma- scant swine flu vaccine take or leave


Swine-vaccinesAvailability of the H1N1 vaccine is still low and health centers are scrambling to meet the numbers to provide it to the patients who need them.  On contrary, if you think about it, developmental cycle of the swine flu vaccine has been particularly fast, which is few months.  For those, who are associated with the Pharma industry know that developing and getting a drug approved takes many years.  A report came out recently that says that in the United States, swine flu has been responsible for 4000  deaths and over 22 million people have been affected by the H1N1 virus in just six months.  In spite of such impact of swine flu on a large scale with in relatively shorter  time frame, there have been a lot of questions around safety of the swine flu vaccine.  I addressed basic questions around swine flu vaccine; and I would like to present arguments on both side of the fence regarding swine flu vaccine safety in this article.   

What do skeptic physicians say about safety of swine flu vaccine?
There are physicians that do not recommend use of H1N1 flu vaccine, though it is to be noted that such physicians are in minority.  I would like to start with reading the statements passed by some of the physicians and analyze the situation in the end.

physicianLaurence J. Murphy, a pediatrician in Burke: He does not want to inoculate his patients says:

· Most people who get this virus do beautifully. I believe the vaccine hasn’t been tested enough. I just think the benefit of it at this point is not outweighed  by the possible risk.

·  I generally support vaccines and have no reason to think that vaccine is unsafe. But I wonder whether it was tested enough. 

·  They just didn’t have the time to do that properly. They mean well and they are not doing anything to mislead people in any direct way. The reality is no one knows. I’m not pretending to know. I don’t think they should pretend to know, he said.

Bob Sears, Orange County, California says that “What bothers me is pretty much every doctor in the country is jumping on the bandwagon.’This vaccine is completely safe’ — even for the pregnant woman and the unborn baby.” “But they can’t give you a single study that backs up that statement.” 

pregnancy-over-35-yearsMeryl Nass, an internist in Bar Harbor, Maine says

        · In this situation, when there’s very little data, I don’t think people and children in particular should be asked to bear the burden of being experimental subjects.

        ·  Nass also questions the assertion that the vaccine is safe for women in all stages of pregnancy.

· The CDC is telling women in all trimesters to go out and get vaccine. To my mind, this is reckless,” said Nass, who is advising her patients to consider receiving the vaccine only in their second or third trimesters.

What are arguments of...

health official that support H1N1 vaccination?
CDC and health departments have run awareness programs to educate people of use of swine flu vaccine and help in dealing with this epidemic.  Let us look at the arguments presented on other side of fence:

swineflu-vaccineWilliam Schaffner, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases said that

·  I am very disappointed, deeply puzzled and very disturbed by this.

· The people for whom these doctors are not recommending this vaccine are clearly high-priority patients who could have very adverse outcomes if they get infected with the virus.

Thomas R. Frieden, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said

·  I can understand the hesitancy and reluctance to take a vaccine that appears to be new and different. All we can do is provide the facts.

·  The facts are that this is the same manufacturing process, the same manufacturers, the same factories, the same safeguards as the seasonal flu vaccine that has
been used for more than 100 million doses each year for many years and which has an excellent safety record.

swine-flu-vaccineDilemma, whether I should go or not for H1N1 vaccine?
I think this is not unusual that some physicians are still not in favor of vaccinating their patients that are at a risk of getting swine flu disease. The biggest nagging point for minority group is that the vaccine is not tested enough.  Although they feel that vaccine is safe, but there is lack of scientific data that says vaccines are safe, so this group of physicians is skeptical about the vaccine.  I would say think about the situation, it’s a flu that spread around the globe in just few months and affected millions of people.  Healthcare sector, companies along with Government are on the clock to develop a solution to control this epidemic in shortest possible time.  Though, it is unfortunate that flu vaccine is still not available in the desired quantities, but a solution has been developed.  None-the-less, if you would go by regular route of testing the vaccine through clinical trials, the H1N1 vaccine would have hit the market very late.  

I am not saying these minority skeptical physicians are wrong.  They have good intensions and they are thinking in the interest of their patients, but, what do you do in these situations, wherein you don’t have a leverage of collecting huge pile of data?

It would be interesting to conduct at a survey regarding views of physicians on H1N1 vaccine.  68% people are dependent on their doctor’s advice for health of their children as per a nationally representative survey done on 1,042 adults; which would mean that doctors have bigger say in patient’s health than the government agencies educating control of swine flu through vaccine.

Healthy Thinking!


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