It is never a good idea to cut corners in life. Whilst it is often easy to justify in the heat of the moment, down the track, the consequences, some predictable, others not will come back to haunt. It is with this in mind that I am increasingly uneasy about the rush to do mass vaccinations against the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu.
Each year it is recommended that certain risk groups be vaccinated against the flu. This includes those over 65 and those with particular medical conditions. There is no mass vaccination against seasonal flu.
The Southern Hemisphere is getting to the tail end of winter. The number of cases of H1N1 is already waning. The number of deaths associated with it are less than with seasonal flu. There is nothing to suggest that the northern hemisphere winter experience will be any different.
So why are the authorities gearing up for mass vaccination. The vaccine has been tested on some hundreds of people. This is fine but side effects, which occur, say 1 in 10,000 will not be apparent yet but will be significant when 100 million are vaccinated. Rushing to market with inadequate testing is the worst form of cutting corners.
In the rush to do this multi dose vials are being used. These have not been acceptable for use by doctors for a decade due to risks of cross infection. Suddenly it is OK again. Governments are indemnifying manufacturers against claims that may be made in the event of side effects or harm caused. In the USA in 1976, in similar circumstances there were more than 500 deaths associated with the vaccine when 40 million were “mass vaccinated”. According to health authorities in Australia the new vaccine“seems to be very safe”.
In Australia, Medical Indemnity insurers are discussing whether doctors who administer the vaccine will be covered. If this isn’t resolved, no doctor will be able to administer it. I suspect that once again the government will step in and offer indemnity.
The big unanswered question in all this is why? What is the threat that justifies all the cutting of corners, that justifies rushing out a vaccine to use on people who wouldn’t normally even have a flu shot, that justifies allowing medical practices, which have been outlawed to be reinstated? H1N1 is not the bubonic plague. We are not seeing thousands of deaths. Compared to all other major flu outbreaks (1918, 1957 1967) this is mild. It is mild even when compared to seasonal flu where multi dose vials are not allowed and proper testing is done.
As I have written before, the best form of defense is having a healthy immune system ( Blogs April 27 and June 10). As Louis Pasteur is reported to have said, “the seed (germ) is nothing, the soil (body) is everything. Whether you contract flu or not is about you rather than the virus.
The decision as to whether to have the vaccine against H1N1 must be left to the individual. Consider your own circumstances before deciding. Do not be influenced by Chicken Little “the sky is falling” fear.