FOR THE WEEK OF OCT. 05, 2009
Fearful parents wary of swine flu vaccine
Ask your parents if they want you to get the H1N1 vaccine. Ask them why they think it is safe or unsafe. What evidence are they using to make their decision? What do you think?
Look for reports about local immunization programs in your newspaper. What do health officials say about the vaccine? Who are getting the first immunizations?
Keep looking for news reports on any adverse reactions to the vaccine and deaths or hospitalizations from the H1N1 flu.
Fear that the swine-flu vaccine is unsafe because it was rushed to production ahead of the winter sick season has left many parents willing to skip the immunization and risk the virus.
The first batches of the vaccine are now being distributed around the country. Officials are expecting to hand out 200 million doses by the end of the year and 50 million more by the end of April.
Public health officials are recommending that children older than 6 months and pregnant women be vaccinated first. Other high-priority candidates are people with infants younger than 6 months, health care workers, people 24 years old and younger, and people older than 24 who have other health conditions.
But, just 35 percent of parents say they definitely will have their children vaccinated against H1N1, according to a Consumer Reports poll released last week.
Almost 70 percent of those parents who said they were undecided or would not have their children vaccinated said they wanted them to build natural immunities. About 65 percent of those parents said they were worried about whether the vaccine had been tested enough.
Tales of vaccine complications, many of them urban myths, are circulating through blog sites and fueling alarm.
"What I want people to know is that no corners have been cut," said Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"TheH1N1 vaccine is being produced exactly the same way the seasonal flu vaccines were produced with exactly the same oversight. We've gone an additional step with that and are doing extra clinical trails, and those clinical trails so far have not found any red flags in terms of safety."
Reports that parents are exposing their kids to the flu at "swine-flu parties" to develop natural immunity have outraged some physicians.
"The bottom line is this is very dangerous to children," said Dr. Margaret Lewin, chief medical director of Cinergy Health. "Are you really going to risk your child's well-being? This flu vaccine is being tested widely. Why wouldn't you want your child to have as much immunity as possible?"
Vaccine supporter says: "It's 1,000 times safer than getting the flu." - John Bartlett, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Skeptical parent says: "The flu has been around for years, and usually you survive it. If we are going to vaccinate for everything, our immune systems are never going to be challenged, and what does that mean for our immune systems down the road?" - Gigi Christensen of Louisville, Ky.
Cautious doctor says: "I want to look at the risk profile of the particular child and the particular family when I talk about the benefits and potential risks of the vaccine." - Julia Getzelman, a pediatrician in San Francisco
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