Approach Swine Flu Vaccination with A Shot of Skepticism

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“Dear Pharmacist,

I am hearing more about the Swine Flu and I’m getting nervous.  I wasn’t going to get the vaccine, but I’m reconsidering it. Can you help me make this decision?”
–E.B. Boston, Massachusetts

Answer: Discussing vaccinations is like discussing religion and there are highly educated and caring people on both sides of the vaccine argument.  The emergence and spread of this mysterious influenza virus which consists of pig, bird and human genetic particles, will no doubt become a serious health threat to people, especially the immunocompromised. Nevertheless, swine flu (also called H1N1 virus) is the newest disease to be promoted to the public.   I suspect that enormous resources will be mobilized in order to get people vaccinated and limit the virus’s spread, though you won’t hear much about using time-tested anti-viral herbs or powerful antioxidants which can naturally strengthen your immune system and prevent infection.

I absolutely believe that most people will recover from the flu, but the constant news on TV about it provokes a palpable fear in people.   At the moment, the vaccines concern me because they have not been tested long-term in human subjects and have been rushed through safety tests. Like any vaccine, there is no guarantee that getting the shot prevents the disease. Furthermore, viruses are smart and they can adapt quickly to become resistant to vaccines and anti-viral drugs like Tamiflu.

Unfortunately, it is possible to get the flu from certain vaccine formulas if they happen to contain “live, attenuated virus.”  Many people think that a vaccine contains only ‘dead’ virus, but this is not necessarily true. At least one of the four vaccinations that got FDA approval in mid September 2009 does happen to contain “live, attenuated virus”  and it’s aimed at millions of our kids. According to an Associated Press report, approximately only 500 people have died from swine flu, there are campaigns planned for mass vaccination for school-age children beginning in October. According to a U.S. News & World Report article the vaccine planned for our school age children will most likely contain the “live attenuated” virus and be given via nasal mist or drops.

How is it possible to get the sickness from a vaccine shot or mist that contains “live attenuated” virus?  It may occur because you would be receiving live (though weakened) virus particles into your body. For the record, this is not a new concept, this is how many vaccines do their work.  The idea is that introducing a tiny amount of a still-living virus causes your immune system to form antibodies to it, so upon reintroduction, you can defeat the perceived enemy. But, if your immune system is weak (or you are under stress) the virus from a “live attenuated” vaccine has the potential to take over and give you the flu.  This explains why some people who receive the seasonal flu vaccine, get so sick afterwards.

In the absence of independently-funded clinical trials that are placebo-controlled and well-designed, I cannot assure my readers of the vaccine’s safety or efficacy, for any of the 4 vaccines that are currently coming to market. The real data for long-term safety will trickle in after it is administered to your family and neighbors.  I’m taking some heat for my current position, but as a responsible pharmacist (and mother) would you trust me if I told you to rush right out and get a vaccination that has hardly been tested and fast-tracked through the FDA? I think not. It’s sensible and responsible to want more safety testing.

But you may not have a choice in the matter. There are laws in the making that will force you to get the vaccination, whether or not you want it. The laws may change if the still relatively innocuous virus should morph into a deadly strain.  If these state laws are passed, and you disobey the authorities by refusing a vaccination, it’s possible that you could be fined or imprisoned. Massachusetts is setting new law precedents, and there is much contention in that state. Read this article from

What exactly is in the vaccine and should you be concerned about getting the shot (or nasal mist) if you are perfectly healthy?   These questions are not simple to answer. It appears that there is a possibility for one (or more) of the vaccinations to contain an ingredient “squalene,” which some scientists suspect is associated with paralysis of the respiratory system or disabling autoimmune disorders such as Guillain-Barré syndrome and possibly Gulf War Syndrome based on the fact that most men suffering with symptoms of GWS had antibodies to squalene.  I’m not making it up, the study is right here. While terrifying, these are considered rare side effects, and also, I am unable to confirm whether or not the vaccines will actually contain this yet.  Those who feel that squalene is a safe adjuvant discuss the substance as if it were some kind of natural ‘fish oil’ and that it is completely safe for humans. Here is what the World Health Organization says about squalene at this link.

There is also talk that one (or more) of the vaccinations could contain thimerosal, a mercury derivative that could be tied to neurological or neuropsychiatric disorders. Again, I must confirm the presence of thimerasol  as the ingredient list becomes available to the public.

So you can see why many Americans are thinking twice about the risk of the vaccine, versus the risk of contracting (and dying from) the swine flu.  Making an informed decision is all you can do, and should do. The problem as I see it, is that the information you see is very frightening.

Images of people in face masks and bodies in the hospital, commercials for the vaccine, constant advertisements from pharmacies and physicians, it all is very scary.  After you become desensitized, it becomes your reality. It can convince anyone that death and disease is inevitable, but is it really?

Apparently, our friends across the pond aren’t buying the swine flu propaganda.  A survey published in the British Medical Journal concluded that almost half of all health care workers would refuse the swine flu vaccine because of fears regarding side effects and doubts about efficacy.  In a United Kingdom poll, almost one third of nurses surveyed are saying no to the needle too. If the very people who are supposed to be injecting the vaccine refuse it, how safe do you feel getting it?

And one final thought, if you’ve already been exposed to the virus, getting a vaccine may be dangerous. The problem is that you may not even realize you’ve had exposure because you may not have had any symptoms or maybe you just had a scratchy throat or mild cold symptoms. Because the virus is everywhere now, I’m certain that millions of us have been exposed and if this is the case, then your body will have already formed antibodies to the virus so a vaccination will have no effect on you, and may even be more harmful. The plot thickens because there isn’t a reasonable way to test and see if you’ve been exposed or not, but there is a fascinating article that I want to share with you on this subject. It is written by Health Ranger Mike Adams which you can access by clicking here. The title is “Why Millions of Americans Don’t Need a Swine Flu Vaccine.”

Did You Know?
Drinking fennel tea may be helpful in relieving and preventing gas and bloating.