IS THE SWINE FLU VACCINE EXPERIMENTAL?
The swine flu vaccine is made in the same manner as seasonal flu vaccines, and was extensively tested prior to its release. It has not been tested on millions of subjects, but neither has any new strain of the seasonal flu vaccine. Most flu vaccines for the last 30 plus years have contained at least one new strain. For instance, the seasonal flu vaccine this year consists of two strains of influenza A and one strain of influenza B. The two influenza A strains are identical to last year's vaccine (one of which is the conventional -not novel- H1N1 strain ) , while the influenza B strain is new. It will only be way into the flu season that millions of doses will have been given and we will know with certainty that no new side effects emerged. However as this new strain was manufactured similarly to other vaccine in previous years, it can be expected that its safety profile will be similar as well.
WHY GET A FLU SHOT? WHY NOT LET MY CHILD JUST FIGHT THE INFECTON?
Most children and adults manage to fight the flu successfully, even if they suffer from its side effects while they are sick. With seasonal flu, small children, the elderly, and others with chronic diseases are especially vulnerable to become very sick requiring hospitalization, or even to die. Last year we instituted a campaign to try to vaccinate all children from 6 months through 17 years of age as children not only can get sick from the flu, but frequently act as vectors to infect other high risk populations such as infants less than 6 months old, who can not be vaccinated. In most cases infection with novel H1N1 influenza (swine flu) produces illness indistinguishable from seasonal flu. However, in less than 1% of cases the illness can be fulminant and severe, even in otherwise low risk individuals. As yet we are unable to fully predict who this will happen to. Older individuals, especially those born prior to 1950 seem to have some immunity and are less vulnerable to the Swine Flu. Thus our vaccination strategy for Swine Flu is to target younger rather than older people, pregnant women, those in contact with infants less than 6 months old, people suffering from certain chronic diseases, and health care workers.
WHAT IS GUILAIN-BARRE SYNDROME (GBS)?WHAT HAPPENED IN 1976?
In guillan barre, the body's immune system goes haywire making antibodies against itself causing temporary paralysis and possibly death. Among many agents that can cause this is the influenza virus itself. Since 1977 there has been no established link between GBS and the flu vaccine. Even if there may be some small relationship too small to be studied, the chances of contracting GBS are much greater in those who naturally contract the flu than in those who received a flu shot. In 1976 an earlier type of the swine flu vaccine was associated with an increased incidence of Guillan -Barre Syndrome (GBS). People who received this vaccine had a 1 in 100,000; or an elevenfold increased risk of contracting this disease. Since that time there has been no clear association between influenza vaccine and GBS.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM THE FLU?
Wash your hands or use an alcohol based hand rub frequently. Don't put your fingers into your mouth, nose, or eyes. Avoid contact with sick people. Get vaccinated. Keep your immune system strong and healthy eat properly, get a good night's sleep, exercise take a daily multivitamin and omega 3 supplement If you are not feeling well be courteous to others. Don't return to school or work until you are entirely free of symptoms for 24 hours. Follow Home Isolation Precautions