Vaccines Are Safe

H1N1 is providing anti-vaccinators new ammunition

It’s an emotional topic.
Very true and the nut of the problem. This quote is from a mother who researched childhood vaccinations, decided to inoculate her daughter, but now doesn't know what to do about the swine flu vaccine. The article with the quote, "Swine Flu Shots Revive a Debate About Vaccines," does a good job of telling the story without resorting to the typical "balance" that has invaded even science journalism: he said/she said/reporter typed. Here is an example:
“I wonder if the people disseminating this false information about this vaccine realize that what they are doing could result in some people losing their lives,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, the director of the Department of Public Health for Los Angeles County. The comments of vaccine dissenters, which he said “politically come from the left and the right,” were frequently “not just counterproductive,” he said, “but downright disgraceful.”

Web sites, Twitter feeds, talk radio and even elevator chatter are awash with skeptics criticizing the vaccine, largely with no factual or scientific basis.
VaccineUnfortunately, the last bit is rarely stated categorically from an objective viewpoint, but only put into the mouth of an "advocate," such as a qualified health care professional, and "balanced" with a quote from a anti-vaccine organization, such as the National Vaccine Information Center that is included in this article.

I previously posted on general childhood vaccinations. I cited evidence that shows vaccines do not cause autism and discussed the implications of advocating against childhood vaccinations - kids will get sick and some will die. Well, now that the flu season is back and the menacing H1N1 is all over the news. Vaccine safety again needs to be addressed.

But rather than start off too seriously (too late?), Jon Stewart had an excellent segment on last week at the expense of Glenn Beck. The final verdict is below, click the photo to watch the whole segment.

Comparison ChartStewart should really thank Beck for taking off right after Bush-43 left the stage. What material! Okay, show's over, back to work.

Actually, humor is needed in this "debate," because of its nature. It's about the health of your children or grandchildren. It doesn't get much more emotional than that. Facts aren't of much use against fear. But unfortunately, that's all we have. I urge everyone with children at home, including teenagers, to stop, take a deep breath, and educate yourself about the swine flu vaccine.

UPDATE: Swine flu parties are insane! Getting a vaccination shot is exactly the same as purposely catching the swine flu, except that you don't get sick and don't risk any complications. While most infections will have mild to moderate symptoms, healthy kids have died from the swine flu. No one will die from the vaccine.

A quick lesson: any vaccine is a weakened version of a virus. While you won't get sick from the weakened virus, it will trick your immune system into creating antibodies to fight it anyway. Once your body can produce these antibodies, they will attack the live virus when it enters your system. This is how you avoid catching the flu.

A quick fact: the swine flu would have been selected as one of the strains of flu that regular seasonal flu shots contain if the first outbreak in the U.S. would have happened last fall. (Seasonal flu shots contain several different strains of dead viruses) Since it was in the spring, there wasn't enough time to include it in this year's seasonal flu shot. The H1N1 vaccine is exactly like, and has been more scrutinized than, a regular flu shot. The only difference is that it now has to be a stand alone dose.

The links are growing, so I'm putting them after the jump.

Paul Offitt, the chief of the infectious diseases division of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and author of Autism's False Prophets, debunks the myths around the swine flu vaccine.

NPR has a special series, Swine Flu: The Second Wave, as does Minnesota Public Radio, H1N1 Flu Facts and Information.

Amy Wallace, "An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All" WIRED Magazine. (h/t) David Gorski (Orac) at Respectful Insolence, a great source of info that debunks - no, destroys - the arguments of the anti-vaccine crowd.

Mark Crislip, "Flu Vaccine Efficacy" ScienceBasedMedicine.org.

Steve Novella, "H1N1 Update" ScienceBasedMedicine.org.

Tara Smith, "Why I'll be getting my kids their flu vaccines" ScienceBlogs.com. Smith is a Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Iowa. She is actually on hiatus from regular posting since the spring, so her blog's home page, Aetiology, has many entries from the first emergence of the H1N1 virus.

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