Thursday, October 29, 2009

Vaccine Debate

It's been over a month since I posted anything! Time has flown by while Nate is in Iraq. I'm balancing a lot of plates in the air and learning a new job, so I will probably drop off the face of blogging for a while again...but I thought it was worth coming back for a quick post. Suddenly the air is full of rumors about the H1N1 vaccine, and I wanted to provide some good information for those of you who are concerned. I have been chatting with family about the issue and thought I'd share my thoughts with you guys too.

I'll start by saying I share some reservations about vaccines, particularly in the number of doses of vaccine given to children at the same time. So while I am not against vaccines in general, I would prefer to use my own schedule. However, I question anyone who is avidly against ALL vaccines. The people who are fervently anti-vaccine rarely will discuss the great public health benefits vaccines have provided the world, such as eradicating polio. Many of the anti-vaccine groups (such as Jenny McCarthy's team and National Vacccine Information Center) are run by mothers of children who died or were diagnosed with autism. It is important to note that no peer-reviewed scientific article has ever noted a connection between vaccines and autism. I certainly feel for these parents who lost children. Speaking as a mother who's child has had bad reactions to vaccines (once she had a fever of 103 for 3 days, it was scary), I can understand the fear and reservation to trusting doctors or government organizations with blind faith. Researching, reading, and doing your own due diligence are essential.

If there's one piece of true information I can pass along that I hope you take note of, it is that pregnant women are both more likely to contract flu and suffer complications because of it. A pregnant woman's immune system is weakened as the body's way to ensure it does not reject the fetus, which is the reason they are more likely to contract it. Once they have flu, they are 3-5 times more likely to have secondary infections, the worst of which is pneumonia. This is due to multiple reasons, one of which is that their lung capacity is reduced, another is that doctors are less likely to prescribe medications that would treat the problem but could harm the baby. A pregnant woman should get the flu shot (not a live virus) as opposed to flu mist (live virus). I did get my flu shot when I was 20 weeks pregnant.

A second piece of information is that the vast majority of H1N1 vaccines DO NOT contain mercury. This is an absolute fact. With mercury being the reason most moms are worried about vaccine, you would think this would assuage the fears of most, but the problem is that correct information is being blasted tenfold by misinformation, half-truths, or lies. I am sure you are careful about what you read and take note of, but just to reiterate, please think seriously about the credentials of the person speaking and the motivation for talking. There is a YouTube video I've seen from the organization above (NVIC) that has taken comments and spliced them into pieces, so you can't even tell if the person started by saying "vaccines are very controversial" but then followed it with "but I recommend them wholeheartedly to my patients." Also, NVIC is a private company with its own agenda; I am skeptical of any company that pays doctors to make a statement.

The last thing I'll say about the vaccine controversy is that many people believe pharmaceutical companies are behind the push to vaccinate the US against H1N1. This couldn't be further from the truth. In actual fact, vaccine manufacturers will probably barely break even...there has been talk that this could be a problem in the future. Because we rely on for-profit companies to make vaccine, we will be in serious danger if they stop making it, which they could do at any time if they stop making some kind of profit.

I congratulate you if you have already gotten the vaccine. Especially if you're like my cousin Jonna in Georgia--I've heard from my mom that everyone and their brother has an opinion there (including people around her in the grocery line) , and many people there appear to be against getting the vaccine. Kind of ironic being that CDC is there, but they haven't always gotten their messages out well to Atlantans for some reason.

Questions? Comments? I would really love to hear what you have to say. If you've heard something that contradicts anything I've said, please let me know WHERE you heard it when you reply. I will pass the information along at work.

Good luck and stay healthy and safe! Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you're sick, and stay informed: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/

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