Friday November 5, 2010
Flu Shot Or Not?
Dr. Perry Kendall talks about flu vaccines
t's influenza season again. But before you jump in line to get your shot, its important to know what the consensus is and make your own decision.
Every year media and the government put people in panic mode with headlines that read something like; "Flu Vaccines In Short Supply". So then everyone rushes out to get the shot when many may not need it.
Dr. Perry Kendall, British Columbia Chief Medical Officer was on CKNW's Bill Good Show last week to talk about the pros and cons on getting vaccinated.
Kendall says that the flu shot can prevent more serious illness or complications from influenza with compromised immune systems.
"People over the age of 65, people of any age with a chronic underlying health condition and this year the morbidly obese should be added as a result of the H1N1 virus, in fact which could still be circulating, children between the ages of 6-months and 24-months and women in their last two trimesters of pregnancy, plus people who provide care to individuals or people who provide care to infants under 6-months of age who can't receive the vaccine."
He says that even though the H1N1 virus is still around, it's not that prevalent, but more often than not, it's the H3N2 virus and people shouldn't become complacent about getting a shot. It is a serious virus and last year people were losing lungs to the infections.
"I always hope not," said Kendall. "Last year our response was different, there was a lot more hand washing, there was a lot respiratory etiquette; coughing into sleeves and tissues, and there's been a lot more people stay home when they have the flu, so it didn't infect other people, and also as you recall, in September-October-November we used large amounts of anti-viral to treat people who more likely to have serious illness."
The public is concerned about mercury in the vaccines, but according to Kendall, it's in such minute quantities that it's harmless.
"There have been numerous studies and basically, the sort of consensus of the science is that the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh even any potential risk of this mercury. There has been no linkage of this mercury or this vaccine with neurodevelopment and disorders," he said.
However, some people aren't convinced. According to a report in Chicago Tribune, the topic of mercury in vaccines is a hot potato. So much so that they are holding a referendum on that very issue and in the ballot, they care calling on local health care providers for more transparency and want the ingredients disclosed.
At issue, is the mercury-based preservative thimerosol, which has been phased out of most vaccines except the influenza vaccine, despite the fact that a thimerosal-free vaccine is available. Some groups believe thimerosal is linked to autism, but the connection has been consistently refuted by scientific research.
The nonbinding referendum question included the question asking whether Oak Park residents should be informed that vaccines containing the preservative thimerosol "may contain 3 1/2 times the daily toxic dose of mercury exposure for a 148-pound adult."
Others in the community there say that just asking the question throws people off from getting vaccinated simply by just asking the question.
You don't want your child to come down with meningitis, measles or whooping cough just because you're afraid of a little mercury.
Kendall says people should be careful when going online to get their information as there is an awful lot of misinformation out there citing the example of when the H1N1 pandemic was in fill swing, he went surfing on Google and found that the "first 14 out of the first 20 that came up were anti-vaccine sites and they were largely full of misinformation with claims which didn't pare out."
"That can be a problem because there is no sort of measure of scientific value or balance in many of the sites that you will find on the internet," explained Kendall. "I really would advise people to look at the source of their information, go to sources that can be trusted or sources that have some degree of rigor and sort of science and independent oversight behind them," explained Kendall.
Kendall says that First Nations people should also make sure to get the flu shot.
"There is a higher underlying prevalence of chronic disease and maybe a higher underlying factor of obesity and certainly for many people who live on or off reserve, their housing conditions, they're crowded, and are conducive to infection spread plus they may not have access to very good plenary health care and they may not use it. So for those reasons we might expect that a prevalence of influenza would be more frequent and there may be more likely to be serious complications."
Flu shots generally cost $10-20 depending on where you get them. Pharmacists, retail stores and even some savvy employers offer it to staff free because as sort of a cost-benefit to the employer of not having people sick at work.
However, there are potential dangers to the flu vaccine, particularly to the already vulnerable elderly population. Dr. Hugh Fudenberg, one of the world's leading immunogeneticists, states the chances of getting Alzheimer's disease is 10 times higher if an individual has five consecutive shots than if they have one, two or no shots. This is likely due to the thimerosol (a mercury-derived preservative) and aluminum content of the vaccine.
Vaccinating children is a fairly new idea. That is, they only started giving Fluzone to kids on March 1, 2003.
According to Dr. Joeseph Mercola, a leading US homeopathic physician, each dose contains 25 ug of mercury and that produces an increased risk of Bell Palsy.
The nasal sprays present problems too and using it comes with warnings.
"FLUMIST's vaccine live virus is shed after vaccination so the vaccinated are advised to avoid close contact with immune-compromised individuals for at least 21 days. Some hospital personnel are asking those recently vaccinated with FLUMIST to avoid visiting patients in hospitals to prevent the risk of transmitting the vaccine strain virus to sick patients."
Fraser Health is holding local flu clinic drop-ins in at Central Community Church, 46100 Chilliwack Central Road on the following days;
Friday, November 5 at 9:30am to 5:30pm.
The following clinics are operating from 1:30-5:30pm;
Monday, November 8
Tuesday, November 9
Wednesday, November 10
Tuesday, December 7
If you have questions regarding who qualifies for a free shot you can call the local flu phone line at: 604-702-4964
For more information about the pros and cons yuo can visit these sites and learn more about what they are saying about flu vaccines.
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