By Chris Ferguson
Despite the assurances of public health officials at all levels, some health care providers remain unconvinced that taking the H1N1 vaccine is worth the risk.
To Gloria Dearlove, a registered nurse in the psychiatric ward at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, getting the vaccine is a cost-benefit analysis. She agrees with officials that people with asthma and other respiratory conditions should get the flu shot because they are the ones getting sick.
But for everyone else, it’s not worth it.
“It’s my personal opinion,” she said, pointing to U.S. instances of neurological disease associated with the vaccine.
She’s also worried about the fact that adjuvants — additives that boost the body’s immune system — have never been used before in influenza vaccines. She figures the consequences of this flu aren’t any more severe than those of the normal, seasonal flu for those without underlying health conditions.
Those incidents couldn’t be confirmed by Hartwells.
Christine Homan, speaking for the Public Health Agency of Canada, pointed out that Canada isn’t using the same vaccine as the U.S.
Linking deaths and illness to the vaccine itself is like saying “ice cream causes sunburn,” says Dr. David Butler-Jones, who heads the Public Health Agency of Canada.
“On a sunny day, people are outside eating ice cream,” he told a conference of aboriginal leaders Tuesday. “The sunburn has nothing to do with the vaccine but it happens at the same time.”
The Public Health Agency confirms that this is the first time adjuvants have been used in an influenza vaccine, but that Canada has had “experience with the use of adjuvants for many years, including ones very similar to what’s in this vaccine.”
Concerns over the side effects of vaccines are nothing new.
Edda West runs the Vaccine Risk Awareness Network, a nationwide organization that includes many parents who say their kids have suffered adverse side-effects from routine childhood vaccinations, ranging from autism to neurological diseases.
West is also concerned about the adjuvant in the H1N1 vaccine. She says one of the ingredients in the adjuvant, squalene, has been linked with autoimmune disorders, saying it’s “at best worthless.”
He said a strong immune system is your best protection.
There are “many claims out there which are just false, intended to create confusion, create worry,” Butler-Jones told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “Our worry is people getting scared off.”
He added that while vaccine-related deaths in children have for a long time raised eyebrows – and fears – in fact those deaths cannot be attributed directly to vaccines.
Butler-Jones confirmed at another news conference Tuesday that 55 per cent of hospitalized cases in the most recent wave of the illness had an underlying condition, and that increased to 75 per cent for those who died. People with underlying conditions — asthma and chronic lung disease being the most prominent — were 15 times more likely to get the H1N1 flu in the first place.
The fact that she’s not at risk is enough for Gloria Dearlove to believe she’s better off without the vaccine. Still, she’s resigned to having to get it if the government orders it for all health care workers.
“I’m sure they will,” she said, though no move has been made on that front. “I wouldn’t like that, but I don’t want to lose my job either.”