Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The H1N1 debate

The topic du jour. Are you going to get the H1N1 vaccination? I have a lot of friends and family that are quite vehemently against it. Citing that it's dangerous, untested and likely not very effective as the strain mutates so quickly.

Those that are for the vaccination argue the benefits far outweigh the risks, and that all flu vaccines cover similar testing (as the strains change every year, and for them to get the vaccine to market in a timely manner, there isn't years and years of testing). So in essence, if you're cool with the flu shot, you should also be fine with the H1N1 vaccine.

Except one little thing - the H1N1 currently available is adjuvanted. Which means it includes a mixture of squalene (shark liver oil), DL-alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and polysorbate 80 (emulsifier used in ice cream). This mixture bolsters the vaccine - essentially meaning they have to use less of the actual antigen to make the vaccine (because it was limited, this was a way for Canada to buy from the limited supply, and still have enough to provide to everyone).  It's this adjuvant that is making many nervous. Because this is the part of the vaccine that is less tested.  Do a google search re: adjuvant and you can learn a lot about it - more than you want to probably.

To put it bluntly, I'm nervous about it. Nervous enough that I am going to do my due diligence to see if I can instead get Maddie an un-adjuvanted version of the vaccine. She's under 3 and there are reports that it will be made available for those under 3 and pregnant women under 20 weeks.

At the same time - for us, I don't see an option of not getting it. As much as the adjuvanted vaccine makes me nervous, it's the reports of otherwise healthy children dying from this virus (like that poor poor boy just this past Monday) that make me more nervous. Maddie goes to daycare - many of those kids go to school.  That just puts her at an exposure rate that I'm not comfortable with. And while I wouldn't say she is a sickly child, we have certainly had our share of "the sick" in our house in the past 2 years.

But that's us - and that's a decision made after several weeks of thinking, researching, asking for opinions and trying to learn all that I can about it.  I highly recommend you do the same.  The Globe & Mail published a great Q&A article about it, which I found to be fairly unbiased.

Lastly, vitamin D is being touted as a great defense against all flus/colds/seasonal shit.  Because we in Canada cannot get the recommended amount via sunshine from October thru March, it is highly recommended we use supplements. There is also vitamin D in milk, fortified orange juice - lots of stuff. But if you want to be sure, just get some drops.  And according to what I've read, the recommended dosage for kids is up to 400 IU from the 200 IU previously recommended.  We currently give Maddie a multivitamin - but I plan on getting some additional D drops for the whole family.  I mean, why not, right?  That, I don't feel nervous about at all.



Anonymous said...

We're getting the shots now. We weren't going to, with all the conspiracy theorists spreading fear across the Interwebs, but we've changed our minds and have decided that the worst side effect of the vaccine is better than the worst side effect of the flu (death).

Both AH and I work with the public, E & A are in daycare with kids who go to school, so we'll all get it.

Anonymous said...

You might want to check out this report from Health Canada. There has been NO testing on children under 3 or between 10-14 for the vaccine. If you read the stats you'll also notice that far more people are affected by seasonal flu than H1N1. Keep in mind Its just another flu virus and serious side effects are very rare. Just be diligent about hand washing and keep a close eye on Maddie for fevers with bad coughs.

MC said...

There is NEVER testing on babies. Or pregnant women. Testing is always done on healthy volunteers.

Geesh people.

Anonymous said...

That's right. The testing starts with our kids.

Rob said...

I'm not sure who "anonymous" is, but you're welcome to take this up with me in person, if I know you...

You're being a paranoid fear-monger.

MC got it right - they don't tend to "test" anything on babies or pregnanat women. Fortunatley, there are plenty of other means to determine the safety of things like vaccines on these folks, without actually having to test on them.

I've been totally staying out this debate as I'm come across it on multiple friends blogs, Facebook statuses, and tweets. Mostly because the paranoid nature of the debate just annoys me.

[PREWARNING - this is rant is not directed at anyone individually - so Sara I'm not specifically talking to You...]

Like the flu shot, if you can't come up with some compelling reason to get the shot, well then don't. I just don't understand why so many people are looking for a reason NOT to do something that every health authority in the hemisphere has said is safe, effective, and is something you SHOULD do to keep yourself, your family, and your friends and coworkers safe.

Although you won't really be putting friends and coworkers at risk if they just go and get the shot. They won't need to worry about catching H1N1 from you - it's only yourself and your family that you have to worry about getting sick...

There are 1000's of doctors involved in this, around the world. I can't beleive why anyone would rather give more integrity to unsubstantiated reports on the internet.

Sara...noH said...

Whoa whoa whoa. Firstly - anyone is welcome to comment anonymously on my blog, because that's the setting I chose for it. Secondly - just because someone is fearful of something that is unknown, does not make them a fear-mongerer.

The facts that anonymous stated are true. The facts that MC stated are true. That doesn't mean one is more right over the other. I don't think anyone is questioning the validity or safeness of the actual antigen. At least in this conversation. It is the addition of the adjuvant that makes this shot very very different from any other flu shot we have had in Canada in recent years.

And while there are many doctor's on record as supporting the vaccine, not EVERY doctor does. And while a lot of anti-vaccine sentiments are available online, many are not necessarily unsubstantiated drivel. There are facts, evidence and opinion of respected professionals.

I know you weren't targeting me in your rant Rob, and I do understand your frustration at what has become a media whirlwind of differing opinions and what can seem like paranoid ramblings. But in my opinion, it's also just as important not to just blindly do what your doctor (or Health Canada) tells you to do, if you feel hesitant. It is up to you to do your research, with the tools available to you, to make the decision that is right for you and your family.

That's what I did - and we are getting the shot. But I appreciate anyone's attempt to encourage me to learn more and make a more considered decision.

Rob said...

I was just jumping into the debate - I wasn't meaning to suggest no-one should post anonymously - I just meant that if I was about to offend a friend by calling them a fear monger, then I'd welcome them to take me to task the next time I see them.

I agree that facts are facts, but like all debates - it's how you use them. And to me, saying "the testing starts with our kids" is not a fact-based statement, and is a perfect example of trying to scare people in the absence of fact. Sorry, to me that's fear mongering.

Your discussion on the otherhand, regarding adjuventation, is a little more constructive. Even though I'm not sure it's a debate that a non-medical crowd can resolve, oonstructive discussion is never a bad thing.

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on one point though - I believe one should be VERY comfortable in blindly doing what Health Canada tells you to do. That's what they're there for.

Bottom line is, like every medical decision, this is a personal one. And I'm certainly not going to look at anyone as some sort of pagan witch for choosing not to get the vaccines. But with some of the arguments that are being thrown about by the anti-vaccine crowd (not here, elsewhere), I'm certainly getting the feeling that they would think me less of a parent for doing what Health Canada says.

Anonymous said...

It certainly is a tough decision. All we hear about in the media these days is H1N1.
Some facts from Ontario's Chief Medical Officer's interim report:
Season flu mortality rate 3.3 per 100,000
H1N1 mortality rate .18 per 100,000
71% of all flu viruses currently detected globally or H1N1.
Declining activity is being observed overall in Canada.

Do your research. Get the vaccine if it's right for your family. Don't be scared. It's just another flus virus.

And Rob. Try not to get so worked up. Stress makes it more likely you'll get ill.....

Rob said...

Who said I'm worked up? :-)

MC said...

The problem with some people (not you Sara) who claim to "do their research" is that they are getting their "facts" from dubious sources. For example, my cousin posted a clip from You Tube on Facebook, in which a woman who runs a "national vaccine information center" in the U.S. is telling people about the dangers of new vaccines. Unfortunately, this truly is fear-mongering because it is not based on fact, but opinion (an not an unbiased one!). This woman may seem like an authority on the subject, but she is really just a lay person with an agenda, who happens to run an official-sounding organization.

I agree whole-heartedly with Rob. There are a lot of people out there who are deliberately choosing to ignore science and expert opinion in favour of media hype and unfounded fears. Clearly you are not one of them Sara! I thought your approach to the issue was very reasonable.