Thursday, 5 November 2009

Should I get the Swine Flu Vaccination?

Yesterday my doctor's surgery called to offer me the swine flu vaccination.  The UK's swine flu vaccination program began on October 21 and apparently here in London, high riskers such as my pregnant self were being offered time slots for the H1N1 shot.

I told the lady from the doctor's office that I'd have to call her back since I'm not sure that I want the vaccination.  Please don't raise your eyebrows at me - I'm really not sure if I do.

I don't want to court controversy for the sake of it, but this is a new vaccine that is still currently being tested.  I'm not one for pill popping at the best of times and I reserve vaccination and medicine taking for when I genuinely need it.  I've never had the seasonal flu shot, which is offered more routinely to young adults in the USA but not in the UK.   (Quick side note - here is an excellent link on comparing common cold versus flu symptoms - thank you Mama E).

The UK NHS and US CDC both suggest that no dangerous, ill effects are expected from the H1N1 vaccine. Similar flu vaccines for H5N1 have come across as safe in clinical trials, and these "official, expert" sites quote that changing the strain of a virus in a seasonal flu vaccine does not substantially affect the safety of the vaccines.  But isn't it more than slightly worrying that the US has apparently granted legal immunity to H1N1 vaccine makers?

Pill popping I am not, but anti-vaccine I'm not either.  I had all the routine vaccinations growing up and I've had sporadic top-ups as and when needed for travel without giving these vaccinations a second thought.  If I delved deeper would I find lots of potentially devious chemicals in these vaccinations?  Probably.  Am I fine?  Yes.  Do I even want to venture into the black hole arena of pharmaceuticals and drugs?  No!  Yet I'm conflicted because this is a new vaccine, and conscious that I'm not just acting for me anymore.

From what I can see there are two potential concerns about the H1N1 vaccine.  First issue, the mercury preservative thiomersal or thimerosal as its referred to in the USA, which has been found to be dangerous when taken in high doses.  Secondly, adjuvants, or agents added to a vaccine to make it more effective. The CDC reports that all flu shots, including H1N1, currently distributed are adjuvant free and that there are some thimerosal-free shots available.  Worryingly, the UK vaccine, Pandemrix, appears to contain both thiomersal and adjuvants according to this link that I got via the NHS online.

So what should I do - get the vaccine in the name of protecting myself and baby from H1N1 or stay vigilant and take preventative measures such washing my hands, keeping my hands off my face, gargling with warm salty water, cleaning my nose with warm salty water and drinking hot liquids that wash proliferating viruses in the throat to the stomach where they die?

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