Flu Vaccines

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An article published on Friday from Associated Press medical writer Mark Stobbe reports that 600 million swine flu vaccinations may be distributed for the upcoming flu season in addition to the approximately 115 million seasonal flu vaccinations offered each year.

The rationale used here is that everyone would need two doses, and there are 300 million Americans, explains ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross. But that s ridiculous. Even if health officials could vaccinate every single American, which they can t, not everyone would need two doses since there is still circulating immunity from previous encounters with and vaccinations against swine flu among Americans over fifty. For now, people are running around in a panic, wearing masks and not going to school. They lack the perspective to see that the seasonal flu is more dangerous than this. [The usual seasonsal flu] is a pandemic by any standard, and thus far, apparently much more dangerous than swine flu.

They claim that they won t interfere with seasonal flu vaccinations, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. I can t imagine the logistics of that. There s going to be a huge overlap between the two vaccination schedules. I could easily imagine tens of millions of doses of this stuff not being used because people don t want it or there s just no way to get it distributed. In fact, millions of doses of annual, seasonal flu vaccine are discarded every year.

The article also mentions the 1976 vaccination of 40 million Americans in anticipation of a new strain of swine flu: The pandemic never materialized, and at least 500 people who got the shots came down with a paralyzing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome. It s still unknown what caused the condition.

Officials are concerned that having two vaccines with unknown side effects could create an even more complex problem. Dr. Ross is not as pessimistic: The flu vaccine is practically as safe as rainwater unless you re allergic to eggs, since it s developed in eggs. The fact that in 1976 there were 500 cases of Guillain-Barre syndrome from 40 million doses swine flu is of minimal concern. That risk is about one in 100,000, and in most cases the symptoms were mild and reversible. These vaccines will hopefully even be less toxic.