He also includes the potential mortality risk as part of a broader scare tactic:
"The CDC released fatality data this past week and were quite clear in their assessment of this relatively non-virulent strain of influenza: 75-80% of the 76 children had significant or severe underlying medical problems.
Any child's death creates an extremely difficult public discussion but of the 300,000,000 Americans there are 45,000,000 children and teens and there have been 76 deaths of younger people. About 15 of these deaths occurred in seemingly healthy children and teens.
Please put all of these numbers in the proper perspective and realize that there are many important lifesaving topics for the media to publicize but none which sell papers and create TV viewership quite as well as this new flu...the science is terrible but the publicity is geared towards increasing fear, selling vaccines and Tamiflu and keeping us all on edge."
He does not predict disaster from this year's pair of flu vaccines, but doesn't think that they're a good use of our health care dollars, saying, "they are definitely not worth the amount of media and medical attention they've received and continue to receive."
Ms. Lombardo brings up questions about levels of mercury in the vaccine, and the contentious use of the preservative thimerosal. She provides a comprehensive breakdown of all of the ingredients used in the four different manufactured versions of the vaccine, and confirms that some do contain thimerosal, which is 49% mercury by weight.
The dangers, especially the risk of brain damage, associated with mercury are well established in scientific literature. So concerns over mercury exposure for infants, children, and pregnant women are no small matter. She points out that, "reviews in the medical journal The Lancet found a lack of health benefit of the seasonal flu vaccine for children under two and significantly increased rates of vaccine related adverse events in children."
She recommends reading the package inserts very carefully, paying special attention to risks and safety studies, and insisting on a mercury-free version if you decide to get the shot. Refer to her complete list of ingredients before getting vaccinated.
Dr. Greene emphasizes how little we know about the potential severity of the H1N1 flu, but he does believe it's likely to be several times worse than usual flu season illness, with children, college and grad-school age adults and pregnant women most vulnerable. Interestingly, he points out that boys who catch H1N1 seem to get a lot sicker than the regular flu.
Overall he feels positively about the prognosis for the vaccine, though he admits that we don't know the whole story. Though no serious side effects have been noted so far, he warns, "I expect we'll see some side effects emerge when larger populations are immunized. After all, if we gave enough people bananas or spinach we would see a few serious side effects and allergic reactions." But he does feel that the benefits outweigh any risks.
He also quells a persistent rumor: that people will get the flu from the H1N1 vaccine. Not true, he says: "Unlike some other vaccines, this one is not a live virus; it's bits and pieces that recombine in the body and then prompt it later recognize and attack the flu virus."
He prefers the versions with no added mercury as a preservative (the ones that come in single dose vials), and he reminds parents that no infants under 6 months should get the vaccine.
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