H1N1 vaccine facts fight rumors
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.