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Wednesday, October 21,2009

Swine flu vaccines are safe and time-tested, experts say

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

CHICAGO — Untested? No.

Rushed into production? Not really.

Full of substances that do harm? Hardly, and especially not compared to the dangers of the H1N1 flu virus.

That is the retort of researchers, scientists, federal health authorities and others familiar with how swine flu vaccine is being made, as they listen — at times with disbelief — to the debate about it unfolding around kitchen tables and over the Internet.

They hear the arguments — about what's in the vaccine, whether it was made too fast, whether there are side effects — all the while frustrated that decades of experience in making effective flu vaccines hasn't resulted in more public confidence that they got this one right, too.

"We've been baking this bread for 60 years, and we're pretty good at it, buddy," said Kenneth Alexander, an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago.

For all who will listen, Alexander and other experts at research facilities, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and elsewhere explain that the swine flu vaccine isn't a completely new brew cooked up in a panic.

They argue that it's actually the result of a 60-year-old, tried-and-true process of flu vaccine making that was tested on thousands of people before being scheduled for distribution — including on some researchers who volunteered themselves.

"A lot of misinformation is being brought up and spread around," said Jesse Goodman, the FDA's acting deputy commissioner for public health. "We think it is important to have the actual facts laid out and let people make their own decisions."

The vaccine "is the absolute best protection and a perfectly safe one," Goodman said, adding that the risks from contracting the flu, which can be deadly, far outweigh any risk of side effects from the vaccine.

Here is how the vaccine is made: When the H1N1 virus first appeared last April in Mexico and California, federal health officials identified it and sent it to pharmaceutical companies it contracts so they each could formulate their vaccine versions for field testing before mass production.

It is a months-long process, but mass production geared up in August and the first 2 million doses were delivered to doctors and clinics two weeks ago. On Friday, CDC officials acknowledged slower production than they'd hoped but predicted "widespread availability" by the beginning of November.

That turnaround from discovery to delivery was fast enough that many Americans who told pollsters they don't plan to vaccinate their children said they worried that the vaccine was rushed into production before being tested adequately for potential side effects.

Nonsense, Alexander said.

"This H1N1 vaccine is made just like all the flu vaccines we have been making for 60 years, which have an extraordinary record for safety," he said. "The only difference between this one and the seasonal flu shots is the virus it is made from, so we have no reason to believe this one will be any less safe."

Though pharmaceutical researchers around the globe are trying to find newer and speedier ways to make flu vaccines, in the U.S. the only FDA-approved method is the original, 1940s way: injecting the virus into chicken eggs to be grown into larger quantities.

For the arm-shot vaccine, the virus eventually is harvested from the eggs, killed and chopped into segments. When injected into the recipient, it activates the body's immune system to produce antibodies that kill the actual flu virus if the recipient is exposed.

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Three in my family got H1N1 this year. I know this with certainty because my daughter has cystic fibrosis and so she was tested for the flu after she had a fever in October. Even though my child, not quite two, is in the high risk category because of her CF, I have to say that she got through her flu quicker than her brother or I did - and our symptoms all manifest only as a fever, slight cough, and achy joints - oh, and we were all a bit low energy: in other words, just a little bit of discomfort for under two days. No big deal. Really. There is NO WAY I would vaccinate myself or my children - for the flu or anything else for that matter. It seems that many deaths have been related to secondary underlying conditions or infections, particularly staphyloccocus. My daughter has grown this before - had the media shared this information, I just might have asked for antibiotics. Good thing I was unaware.

This link is just one I could share that provides an alternative medical view: 


I do hope more people will take their health into their own hands and research this thing more - rather than getting shots based on fear-factor tactics employed to increase the sale of the vaccine. What is truly shameful is that hospital employees are basically being forced to submit to vaccination for H1H1 - or face financial consequences from lost work (don't believe me? talk to the nurses at The Children's Hospital in Aurora). Medical decisions should be private - and not coerced.

Flu vaccinations? Not for my family.



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When it came to my family getting the shot last year, what made us have second thought is regarding the preservatives that the vaccine might contain. Though we were sure that the <a href="http://stomachflusymptoms.net/">flu symptoms</a> would be fought well with the help of the vaccine, we were really afraid of the mercury content that were often a part of the vaccine. At last, with the help of my doctor's advice, we all got it and we have been able to keep the flu symptoms at bay till date. However, am still worried about the lingering mercury content that might always be a part of the vaccine that is given to people!