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A Defense of Childhood Influenza Vaccination and Squalene-Containing Adjuvants; Joseph Mercola’s “Dirty Little Secret”

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256 thoughts on “A Defense of Childhood Influenza Vaccination and Squalene-Containing Adjuvants; Joseph Mercola’s “Dirty Little Secret”

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  2. Dr Benway says:

    Wow. This thread is like Thanksgiving dinner at my in-laws. The only part missing is something about doctors not learning much nutrition in med school.

  3. jn45 says:

    Thanks for writing such a superb article. I think it’s very informative, something that people need to read. My wife and I have already got our vaccinations.

    I do disagree with one of your comments from the article, that has to do with the economics of the vaccination…

    “pharmaceutical companies, doctors, and hospitals stand to make a lot more money from an uncontrolled pandemic than from its prevention.”

    This may be true, but it doesn’t describe how the situation looks to be unfolding. There is so much confusion with the public that the actors stand to profit from both the prevention, and the pandemic, whatever scale either assumes. The vaccines are counted and budgeted for in many situations, and when much of the population passes on the vaccination, the pharmaceutical companies will gain again from the increased levels of sickness that arises.

  4. adambarry says:

    I’m sorry but I think I’m going to have to agree with cnemike and his crazy “conspiracy theories”. It seems to me that none of you are looking at the bigger picture here and keeping an open mind. I fully respect all medical professionals and the amazing work they do to provide the public with the healthcare that they deserve. I have no medical background so I do not have the massive amounts of knowledge on that subject but I yearn to learn new things each and every day. I do not believe however, that it is viable to brand anyone with alternative views on this subject as a ‘quack’ or a ‘nutjob’ et cetera. All cnemike along with everyone else with the “alternative mindset” are trying to say is that you should maybe be a bit less biased towards the mainstream medical society along with their endorsed corporate pharmaceutical companies and try to get rid of this tunnel vision mentality everyone seems to have going on. Fair enough if you look at this purely in the medical sense then we’re gonna keep going in circles debating over vaccine ingredients and the like, but red flags should start going up when you hear the about the misconduct that goes on within some of these pharmaceutical companies, the ones that make these vaccines that you hold on to and believe in so dearly. The fact that even military contractors such as DynCorp hold patents in these vaccines is also something to question and even the origins and the actual composition of swine flu itself is highly suspicious. I find it highly commendable that “alternative thinkers” speak out and question what is going on with the world, which is more than I say for the skeptics who brand these people as if they have mental problems and then continue to stand so solidly on the shaky foundations they have based their lives upon. We are involved in a monumental deception that has spanned hundreds if not thousands of years which will allow a small group of powerful people control humanity covertly. Please don’t take my word for it, do the research, stop being stubborn and realise this whole swine flu thing is one part of an immensely bigger agenda that will affect us all in the future.

    I also use colloidal silver and it works a treat for me, all I need is to know that it works for me and no vaccine or pharmaceutical drugs have ever worked as well as that has. I also attribute the dire state of public health down to the processed and malnutritioned food (more food than you think) that the same corporations churn out for all the sheep to eat. One question…why haven’t these companies that make billions from drugs made anything that CURES a patient of anything? “A cured patient is a lost source of revenue”

  5. emerson24 says:

    Ok…here’s your Big Pharm companies for you:

    http://www.torontosun.com/news/canada/2009/02/27/8560781.html

    Knowingly sending out contaminated vaccines?

    http://www.naturalnews.com/027116_Merck_doctors_vaccines.html

    Putting hits out on doctors????

    ** You people can spew all the nonsense you want, I look at FOUNDATION and MORALS, along with ETHICS of the people who are supposedly trying to make me healthy and keep me free from illness.

    Go take your vaccines. I’ll stick with oxysilver and Vit D3 with a good diet.

  6. vinny says:

    The numbers do not make sense: 36k deaths, 200k hospitalizations? Seriously, roughly one of 6 people hospitalized with flu symptoms will die in the hospital? I don’t know what your ER is like but in my hospital the ER staff is very enthusiastic about hospitalizing a patient. Each month on the floor I oversee about 150 hospitalized patients (5 admissions per day). One to two of them die, but their death is often expected (metastatic cancer, aspiration pneumonia in a bed-bound patient, end stage AIDS,..) I have seen one patient die from this flu and my hospital was right in the middle of the Queens h1n1 flu outbreak. There were thousands of people sick in the area. Half of the staff experienced flu symptoms during May/June of this year-no one had a serious complication. I’ve taken care of dozens of patients during those months who were admitted due to H1N1 fears and who had flu symptoms and and asthma or COPD exacerbation. Every one of them walked out of the hospital.

    I wonder where the 36k deaths per year due to flu actually comes from. What were the specifics in reaching such a figure.

  7. Th1Th2 says:

    vinny,

    Those figures are guestimates. It is almost always synonymous to iatrogenicity – the medical community’s unfailing proclivities.

  8. vinny says:

    David,
    Thank you for the link explaining flu mortality figures. So the h1n1 flu season this past summer was responsible for 400 deaths. Since it is expected to contribute to more deaths during this Winter, it is not any more lethal than it was earlier. Therefore I have to question the panic reported in the media and mandatory vacciations of hospital workers. It this becomes a policy for all communicable diseases, fine. However, I don’t see the reason for panic regarding this particular flu strain or the reason for a national state of emergency.

  9. mikeydbrain says:

    You have done a generally well researched analysis of the squalene issue, however I would like to point out that your stats regarding Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) may not be as all encompassing as they should be. The major concern regarding Guillain Barre is that the rate of this side effect was higher during the 1976 H1N1 vaccination program, as high as 2-3/100,000 (http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/gbs_qa.htm), which is slightly higher than the normal background rate.

    That statistic, along with a complete lack of information about what caused those higher rates, along with the fact that we have not had a large H1N1 vaccination program since, does raise the concern that the current nH1N1 vaccination could cause higher rates of Guillain Barre. The concern may be low given that it depends on a lot of unknowns and circumstantial evidence, but it is not invalid. It is made weaker by the fact that currently, the morbidity and mortality rate for H1N1 infection is clearly much higher than the 1976 rate of GBS. But again, it is a valid concern, and cannot be adequately addressed by citing the rates of GBS after regular seasonal flu vaccines, since our experience with H1N1 vaccination in the past has been different and that the current nH1N1 is inherently different.

  10. Sue H says:

    Doctor do you know if squalene is contraindicated for someone with a fish and fish oil allergy? I want the vaccine but neither my family doctor, my allergist, nor Glaxo can give me a straight answer.

  11. NinjaPatriot says:

    Why hasn’t anyone addressed this horrendous article’s fallacies?

    “including the concern that the influenza vaccines cause the flu (they don’t)”

    Proof by assertion? Couldn’t find a government article to back up your assertion?

    “that the thimerosal they contain causes autism (it doesn’t),”

    Again, proof by assertion. First, it’s hardly conclussive one way
    or the other whether or not Thiomersal is linked in any way to autism. The anecdotal evidence
    is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like
    symptoms, it’s easy to see where this comes from. No tin foil hat required.

    Second, asserting that it doesn’t is shameful for any serious scholar, writer, scientist, etc.
    Especially when you write on a website entitled science based medicine. Your readers deserve better.

    “His article begins with his confession that he doesn’t understand why children should be vaccinated against influenza.”

    Incorrect, he makes the argument that 100 lives, while tragic, does not demand vaccinating
    75 million children with substances that are potentially dangerous and at best ill understood.

    “children are hardly being singled out for experimentation as he implies.”

    Children are the majority, Mercola was correct in his assessment.

    “Second, in discussing only the children who die, Dr. Mercola implies that the only benefit of vaccination is the prevention of death in the person vaccinated.”

    Incorrect, you implied this, not Mercola. You’re very sneaky and intellectually dishonest.

    “Those who survive an infection are still subject to its inherent suffering and complications”

    Explain what “inherent sufferings” are caused by the flu, other than the obvious symptoms that even
    a six year old child is aware of?

    “Dr. Mercola doesn’t seem to appreciate that children suffer the greatest rate of infection from seasonal flu each season”

    How many of these children were vaccinated prior to getting flu symptoms?

    “we vaccinate to prevent a disease altogether, and to help the entire population avoid all of these risks.”

    Yet it still comes back every year? Maybe we should re-evalute the cause of disease, and rather than
    treating symptoms perhaps we should entreat the defense system inherently given.

    “Preventing children from contracting influenza, either seasonal or H1N1, is a very rational, humane goal, and hardly the “ridiculous assumption” Dr. Mercola claims it to be.”

    Mercola never suggests that it isn’t a humane goal, rather the course of action
    taken to prevent it is highly dubious.

    “In other words, adjuvants containing squalene don’t induce an immune response to squalene.”

    Not so fast slick, that’s not what the source you listed deduces. They tested the antibody status, which is the amount
    of such squalene antibodies present in vivo and the subsequent deductions of multi-symptoms present as a causality. They did
    not test whether or not squalene injections at the initial injection site induced the immune system to combat said squalene.
    To support your assertion you needs a reference source that deals specifically with immuno response of squalene at the injection site.

    “Even if Dr. Mercola’s entire article made a single valid point regarding the use of adjuvants in the H1N1 vaccine, it is irrelevant to the US population. Based on poor science, packed with misinformation, and designed to promote unwarranted fear, his article is not a source of information, it is dangerous, irresponsible fear mongering.”

    The invalidity of Mercola’s article is irrelevant based on the fact that your rebuttals were not sufficient in contradicting Mercola’s postulates.

    If people want to take the flu vaccine, it’s their choice, to convince someone to take the flu vaccine by making them believe that it is ultimately safe,
    is high treason. Your shameful article should be adjusted or taken down. To think that people would willingly put this garbage in their medical facilities makes
    me very much glad I understand the murderous inherency (willful or ignorant) of the allopathic medicaly community.

  12. Harriet Hall says:

    NinjaPatriot,

    Your comments reveal your ignorance. “The anecdotal evidence
    is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like symptoms,”

    Scientists took the anecdotal evidence seriously and devised several good studies to test the hypothesis; all the evidence was negative. No, they haven’t absolutely “proved” that mercury doesn’t cause autism, but they’ve shown that there isn’t any reason to think that it does.

    The mouse studies do not support the mercury/autism hypothesis because (1) rodents don’t get autism and (2) humans don’t get the effects reported in mice. See http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=178
    “of the 3 studies in small critters, one showed no effects at 10 times the dose, and the two that did show effects didn’t show the same effects. For instance, one showed a decrease in neuronal density, the other showed densely packed neurons. They did both show growth delays (weight and height), but that is not characteristic of autism; and the other hamster and mouse findings do not coincide and do not match known findings in autism.”

    “Yet it still comes back every year” Don’t you understand why this is?

    I won’t bother to comment on the rest of your assertions.

  13. libby says:

    Squalene causes arthritis and bone and cartilage decay according to a Swedish study published in the American Journal of Pathology (2000).

    The Endogenous Adjuvant Squalene Can Induce a Chronic T-Cell-Mediated Arthritis in Rats

    “Squalene is a cholesterol precursor, which stimulates the immune system nonspecifically. We demonstrate that one intradermal injection of this adjuvant lipid can induce joint-specific inflammation in arthritis-prone DA rats. Histopathological and immunohistochemical analyses revealed erosion of bone and cartilage, and that development of polyarthritis coincided with infiltration of ß+ T cells.”

    Barbro C. Carlson*, Åsa M. Jansson*, Anders Larsson, Anders Bucht* and Johnny C. Lorentzen*

    From the Department of Medicine,*
    Unit of Rheumatology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm; the Department of Medical Sciences,
    University Hospital, Uppsala; and the Department of Biomedicine,
    Division of NBC Defense, Defense Research Establishment, Umeå, Sweden

  14. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    So what?

    If you are an artithris-prone DA rat, you might want to avoid squalene. This says nothing about humans.

    22 million doses of squalene-containing vaccines have been administered to humans with no significant adverse effects. See http://www.who.int/vaccine_safety/topics/adjuvants/squalene/Jun_2006/en/index.html

    And there is no squalene nor any other kind of adjuvant in US vaccines.

  15. Harriet Hall says:

    Mikeydbrain,

    A recent article indicates that the risk of GBS is greater from influenza itself than from the vaccine:
    “Although the occurrence is rare, it is by far more frequent than that following influenza vaccine…The benefit of large-scale influenza vaccination should also be considered as a means to protect against Guillain-Barre syndrome.”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUSTRE50R6IK20090128

  16. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    You claim that squalene is safe, but perhaps unwittingly add that the US avoids it. Perhaps your own medical researchers are not as convinced.

    I went to the suggested URL where the safety of squalene was determined by means of voluntary reporting by patients to their doctors. This unscientific method to determine side effect rates cannot replace legitimate follow-ups on vaccinated patients, as surely you must know, let alone be used as a foundation for rate comparisons.

  17. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    I don’t know why the manufacturers of vaccines used in the US have elected not to use adjuvants in flu vaccines. There are good arguments for using them: they increase the availability of vaccine by generating more doses from the same material, and they apparently provide some degree of cross-immunity for other strains of virus.

    I’m willing to look at evidence that squalene in vaccine is harmful to humans. I couldn’t find any. If you know something I don’t, please share.

  18. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    Fair enough.

    Why you think that side effects observed in animal testing is not relevant? One wonders why such testing occurs at all if the results have no meaning.

  19. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    Side effects in animal testing may or may not be relevant. It’s not that the results have “no” meaning – it’s that the meaning requires confirmation in human studies.

  20. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    I’m concerned about the reference to “human studies”, as it was not a study at all. The data was compiled from patients who voluntarily disclosed information to their doctor, a doctor who connected the dots between the vaccination date and the patient’s condition, and that assessment being passed on to the appropriate body.

    It’s safe to say that data compiled in this way has to be unreliable, especially considering that the onset of afflictions such as arthritis can take considerable time to manifest, compounding the issue of “connecting the dots”.

    You stated that only arthritic rats need worry. Was any consideration given to human subjects who had a proclivity for arthritis?

  21. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    Do you have any evidence that squalene causes serious side effects in humans?

  22. Draal says:

    LD50 studies are done in animals to get an idea of the relative toxicity of a chemical. It would be a little Draconian to insist on human LD50 values. The easiest way to get a snapshot of the toxicity of a chemical is to look up it’s Material Data Safety Sheet (MSDS). For squalene, the LD50 is 5000 mg/kg [mouse]. For comparison, ethanol (drinking alcohol) has a LD50 of 3450 mg/kg (mouse).
    Squalene is in fact synthesized by plants and animals for a number of things including cholestrerol, steroids, lipids and CoQ 10.

  23. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    No, because when there was an opportunity to compile the evidence it was done so in a way that was unscientific and careless, as I have already stated. Voluntary disclosure is the poorest method of determining vaccine safety, which in any case would only determine short-term effects.

    Canada is now discontinuing squalene in its new orders of H1N1 vaccine (Toronto Star) and the German Chancellor and Ministers are placing special orders for themselves that contain no squalene (Der Spiegel), although the German public will be given the adjuvant. As stated the US avoids the substance.

    Logic dictates that if there were no human safety concerns then none of the above would occur.

    Although proponents mention it is a common substance in food, there seems to be a difference when it is taken orally or by injection, as shown in the Swedish study.

    But I think the overall issue is being avoided. H1N1 is not smallpox or polio. It is a severe flu but there are indications that it is not severe enough to warrant the risk of a controversial adjuvant. Finland has declassified H1N1 as a serious disease, and the Australian government predicts only twice the number of deaths compared with other flus (all flus have their risk).

    Combine this with the fact that people are being encouraged to congregate around clinics to receive the shot, a splendid feeding ground for a highly contagious disease.

  24. Harriet Hall says:

    libby said

    “Logic dictates that if there were no human safety concerns then none of the above would occur.”

    No, unfortunately logic is trumped by irrational fears. There were no data suggesting harmful effects of thimerosal when it was removed from US vaccines.

    Squalene is not a “controversial adjuvant” for scientists; there is only a manufactroversy created by public fears.

    H1N1 flu is killing people. Seasonal flu kills 36,000 a year in the US alone. There is no evidence that squalene in vaccines has harmed anyone.

    And I would guess that the risk from “congregating” to get a flu shot is outweighed by the benefit of the shot.

  25. weing says:

    Anyway, the Swedish study you are referring to is based on rats bred to be arthritis prone. The point of the study was that any stimulation of the immune system, even by an endogenous substance such as squalene, will cause arthritis in them. So, if you are such a rat, do not use squalene as an adjuvant and do not stimulate your immune system in any way, including getting a cold.

  26. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    You don’t know squalene is safe for humans. You are making the assumption it is safe because 22 million people were vaccinated with no follow-up. That’s your data, a careless ‘study’. I could probably prove plutonium to be safe if I compiled data from a voluntary reporting program.

    We have a legitimate study on rats that show serious side effects.

    It is a giant leap to head to the conclusion that something is safe due to a lack of evidence. It is better to assume that substances are dangerous unless proven otherwise, and you have no proof that it is safe from any legitimate study.

  27. libby says:

    weing:

    ……or you are a human with a proclivity to arthritis.

  28. qetzal says:

    libby,

    It sounds like you think the only data on squalene’s safety in vaccines is from voluntary post-licensure surveillance. If you re-read the original post, you’ll see that it states:

    As far as long-term follow-up, squalene has been studied as part of influenza vaccines in over 30 phase 1-4 trials, 13 of which had 4-6 month follow-up, and included over 14,000 people, and the current influenza vaccines in development are subject to clinical trials with a 6-12 month follow up schedule.

    That paragraph includes a link to a review on the safety of MF59 adjuvant (which contains squalene), in case you want to confirm those claims. (Although you’ll have to visit a biomed library

    You can also go to PubMed and do your own searching. I found 60 references on randomized controlled clinical trials involving squalene. I don’t know for a fact that any looked at possible effects of squalene on arthritis in humans, but I’d bet that at least some did.

  29. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    Considering all the alarmist warnings about vaccines, it seems likely to me that if serious side effects of squalene had occurred with any significant frequency among the 22 million people who got it over the last decade, we would have at least heard some reports by now.

    We don’t have any evidence that squalene is unsafe; we do have evidence that influenza is unsafe, that vaccines can lower the risk, and that vaccines with squalene have certain advantages over non-adjuvanted vaccines.

    You are making a giant leap from a rat study to the rejection of a vaccine for humans. You are willing to accept a known risk to avoid a hypothetical one. The precautionary principle has the potential to cause more harm than good, especially when quick action is needed during a pandemic.

    Anyway, there is no squalene or any other adjuvant in vaccines in the US, so what is your point?

  30. weing says:

    libby,

    Squalene is produced by virtually every cell in your body and released into your bloodstream whenever you bump into something.

  31. NinjaPatriot says:

    quote Harriet Hall:

    “”Your comments reveal your ignorance. “The anecdotal evidence
    is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like symptoms,”

    Scientists took the anecdotal evidence seriously and devised several good studies to test the hypothesis; all the evidence was negative. No, they haven’t absolutely “proved” that mercury doesn’t cause autism, but they’ve shown that there isn’t any reason to think that it does. “”

    Your attempt at a rebuttal reveals your inattentiveness. Clearly I made no assertion as to the link between mercury and autism and I certainly didn’t write that the issue was “proved” as that is not what science, as a methodology, does. Regardless of whether some scientists claim, mice are the best human-like analogs. Their DNA is closer than any other mammal, if I remember correctly, and studies on mice have produced most of the scientific, educational, and medical progress for humans.

    Of course you want comment on my “assertions” considering I made none. I mostly asked questions, which is what this article from Joseph clearly lacked. It presents a black and white reality wherein Joe is correct and all those dissenting are incorrect. This is by far some of the most dangerous and disgusting journalism. This is a good example of what to avoid.

  32. weing says:

    When you say the DNA of mice is closer than any other mammal, do you mean it is more compact? Is that your anecdotal evidence?
    Harriet’s correct. Your statements not only reveal but shout out your ignorance.

  33. Harriet Hall says:

    NinjaPatriot says “I made no assertion as to the link between mercury and autism”

    I cut and pasted the following from his previous comment: “The anecdotal evidence is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like symptoms, it’s easy to see where this comes from.”

    Are we quibbling about what the definition of “assertion” is?

  34. NinjaPatriot says:

    Apologies, I was in a hurry to a meeting, I need to rewrite this sentence for clarity of original intent.

    Their DNA is closer than any other mammal, if I remember correctly, and studies on mice have produced some of the best scientific, educational, and medical progress for humans.

  35. NinjaPatriot says:

    weing wrote:

    “When you say the DNA of mice is closer than any other mammal, do you mean it is more compact? Is that your anecdotal evidence?
    Harriet’s correct. Your statements not only reveal but shout out your ignorance.”

    Ad hominem attacks? Baseless assertions concerning my lack of knowledge? Are you being paid to debate contrary opinion? Isn’t it odd that you and Harriet are so convinced, you need to spew pathetic retorts in defense of your OPINION?

    When I speak of DNA similarities, I’m speaking of working DNA similarities. Is this difficult to comprehend? While virtually meaningless to quantify genetic similarities, other than for phylogeny, it does demonstrate my argument is provacative and suggestive.

    Harriet wrote:

    “I cut and pasted the following from his previous comment: “The anecdotal evidence is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like symptoms, it’s easy to see where this comes from.”

    Are we quibbling about what the definition of “assertion” is?”

    Isn’t it a bit ironic that you declare my post ignorant while having no conception of what an assertion is? Let me google that for you:

    Main Entry: as·ser·tion
    Pronunciation: \ə-ˈsər-shən, a-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 15th century

    : the act of asserting; also : declaration, affirmation

    First, you must not be aware that this is not my opinion, rather the opinion of a growing number of researchers and medical professionals. If you had included the prior sentence you could have avoided making the straw man fallacy.

    NinjaPatriot wrote:

    “First, it’s hardly conclussive one way
    or the other whether or not Thiomersal is linked in any way to autism.The anecdotal evidence is clearly in favor of causality, and since mercury in mice have shown autistic-like symptoms, it’s easy to see where this comes from.”

    Then again it’s easier to confuse readers by obfuscating the facts to fit your argument.

    Second, only someone with little grasp of logic would dare suggest that semantics is insignificant. Clearly, you fail.

  36. weing says:

    So you are saying mice DNA is closer to human than an ape’s?

  37. weing says:

    An ad hominem argument would be discounting what you say because you are the one saying it and we all know that you are stupid. That is not what I said. My assertion is that you are ignorant because of what you are saying. See the difference? Probably not.

  38. Th1Th2 says:

    weing,

    “So you are saying mice DNA is closer to human than an ape’s?”

    I wonder why they never sacrificed silverbacks in their vaccine production. Do you think silverbacks are more reliable than rats and guinea pigs? I guess silverbacks are more precious and expensive, even costlier than innocent and helpless vaccine-damaged children.

    Harriet Hall,

    “There were no data suggesting harmful effects of thimerosal when it was removed from US vaccines.”

    Thimerosal is a known teratogenic. Why don’t you go to FDA and Ely Lilly and demand them to put Merthiolate back in the market to prove your arrogant claim that Thimerosal is safe.

  39. weing says:

    Th1Th2
    Your definitions of disease are divorced from reality and exist only in your head. Time and again you’ve shown yourself to be incapable of learning anything and your deluded beliefs would result in many innocent dead and real disease-damaged children.

  40. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    Have there been any studies to show that the H1N1 vaccine is safe?Presumably since the vaccine has just been produced, there would be little time to test it on humans.

    I’m certain you remember the last swine flu scare and the failed vaccination program of 1976 under President Ford. After 40 million shots the program was halted due to a possible link to Guillain-Barré. According to Dr. Hatfield, a medical advisor under Ford, his warnings of nervous system complications were ignored and the program proceeded.

    What has changed between 1976 and 2009 regarding vaccine safety?

  41. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    Apparently you haven’t bothered to read what’s already been written on this blog. I will summarize for your benefit.

    (1) The new vaccine has been tested for efficacy and safety in short-term tests. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for long-term studies because we need to use it now for this flu season. The new vaccine is made the same way the annual flu vaccines have always been made and there is no reason to suspect it should be any less safe. When a new variety of apple is marketed we don’t have to go back to square one and prove that the new apples are safe to eat.

    (2) In 1976 they were afraid there would be a swine flu epidemic. It never materialized. The vaccination campaign continued and did more harm than the flu. That was a mistake. The situation in 2009 is entirely different, since this swine flu has not fizzled out but has already become a pandemic.

    (3) We learned from the mistakes of 1976. The 2009 vaccine is being monitored far more closely. For instance, neurologists have been alerted to look for GBS.

    Sure, it would be great if we could test the new vaccine thoroughly and follow patients for the next 50 years to make sure there were no delayed adverse effects. Then we could look back and say “Gee, the vaccine was safe – too bad we didn’t use it in 2009 – think of all the lives we could have saved.”

    If you are looking for guarantees of perfect safety, you’re not going to find them in the real world. “Safe” is a relative term. At this point, the vaccine looks safer than risking the flu.

  42. qetzal says:

    Harriet Hall wrote:

    At this point, the vaccine looks safer than risking the flu.

    That’s the key that seems to be ignored by virtually everyone who questions H1N1 vaccine safety. People keep asking “Is H1N1 vaccination safe?” but that’s the wrong question. They should be asking “Is H1N1 vaccination safer than no vaccination?”

  43. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    But instead of risking GBS from an untested vaccine, why not simply take precautions to reduce the odds of getting Influenza A:

    a) get enough sleep
    b) stay in good shape
    c) stay away from junk food, esp sugar
    d) keep hands away from face
    e) good hygiene
    f) good nutrition
    d) reduce physical contact if possible

    Secondly, how do we know that the deaths are from H1N1? Testing for anti-bodies in an autopsy wouldn’t be accurate, so aren’t these numbers being trumped up to promote the vaccine?

    In Cuba, they are concerned but they don’t have the vaccine for H1N1. There have been 3 deaths so far. In a population of 11 million, that’s quite low. They are focusing on prevention, according to their experts. They are also vaccinating against general flues, but they make their own vaccines which don’t contain contaminants such as mercury, aluminum, formaldehyde, etc. Their follow-ups are not volunteered information but actual follow-ups by medical staff to monitor negative effects.

    Unfortunately you need to read Spanish to avoid our filters on this type of information.

  44. weing says:

    “But instead of risking GBS from an untested vaccine, why not simply take precautions to reduce the odds of getting Influenza A:

    a) get enough sleep
    b) stay in good shape
    c) stay away from junk food, esp sugar
    d) keep hands away from face
    e) good hygiene
    f) good nutrition
    d) reduce physical contact if possible”

    Will these work if someone with the flu coughs in your face?

  45. Scott says:

    Why risk getting GBS from influenza when you could just get the vaccine instead? There’s just as much reason to worry about that.

  46. libby says:

    weing and scott:

    The discussion was focussing on weighing the risks of the vaccine with the disease. If I reduce the likelihood of getting the disease with a change in lifestyle, it changes the risk ratio.

    How many people get the vaccine and then head out to MacDonald’s to celebrate, or finish off their Hallowe’en candy? What does that do to the immune system to prepare against disease?

    In any case you haven’t addressed the low mortality rate from Influenza A in Cuba which doesn’t have the vaccine, demonstrating that perhaps the fear is overblown.

  47. weing says:

    “How many people get the vaccine and then head out to MacDonald’s to celebrate, or finish off their Hallowe’en candy? What does that do to the immune system to prepare against disease?”

    Nothing.

    Don’t know about the Cuban experience. I mistrust anything coming out of socialist regimes. But that’s because of personal experience with them.

  48. Harriet Hall says:

    Libby,

    I read and speak Spanish fluently – I lived in Spain for 7 years. If you can point me to good peer-reviewed articles substantiating your claims about Cuba, I can read them. But that shouldn’t matter. Studies from reputable and disreputable journals from all over the world are abstracted in English in PubMed. Why are the studies you mention not in PubMed? Oh, wait, maybe they’re not actual studies, maybe they’re media reports = hearsay.

    Searching for influenza rates in Cuba I found only one study with “information is provided on the epidemiological situation of influenza and other acute respiratory tract diseases in Cuba during 1989. General mortality rate was 25.4 per 105 inhabitants. Global morbidity rate was 373.9 per 1,000 inhabitants. The highest morbidity rate reported corresponded to children 5-14 years old and under 1 year of age. Serologically, the viral agent proportionally most identified was influenza virus type A (H3N2).” If the 2009 H1N1 virus follows this pattern, they are in for trouble.

    I also read that as of today there have been 7 swine flu deaths in Cuba, not 3. And I read that they are able to use draconian measures of quarantine that would not be acceptable in the US.

    The flu avoidance advice you offer is excellent, but you offer no actual evidence as to how much those measures decrease the chances of catching flu. They certainly don’t eliminate the risk, and I know of no evidence that they are as effective as vaccines.

    I am skeptical of your comments about junk food. I don’t see why visiting MacDonald’s or eating candy would impair your immune system’s ability to prepare against disease, as long as your general nutrition is adequate.

    Your comments are long on opinion and short on evidence.

  49. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    Me sorprende que no ves un enlace entre el consumo de la comida basura y el sistema inmunitario. Hay una película muy interesante que se llama “SuperSize Me” que sigue una persona que habla a MacDonalds. El deterioro de su cuerpo era repentino y serio.

    Respecta a Cuba, los fallecimientos son pocos cuando se compara con nuestras cifras. Hiciste una profecía vacia del futuro de esta enfermidad en Cuba porque no sabes que ocurrirá allí. Es una opinión personal por la que me criticaste.

    Evitabas pensar en mi pregunta sobre cómo los expertos determina si la enfermidad que causa las muertes es la influenza A.

  50. Scott says:

    If I reduce the likelihood of getting the disease with a change in lifestyle, it changes the risk ratio.

    Unjustified assumption here. You must first present credible evidence that lifestyle changes DO reduce the likelihood of getting the flu.

    Good handwashing does, but not by so much as to significantly shift the risk/benefit ratio. And given how incredibly skewed that risk/benefit ratio is, you’d most likely have to be reducing your odds of getting the flu by several orders of magnitude before it even became a mildly interesting question.

  51. Harriet Hall says:

    For those who don’t speak Spanish, Libby has offered the film “SuperSize Me” which she strangely characterizes as being about a person who “talks” to MacDonald’s, (a typo?) as evidence that junk food impairs the immune system!!!

    She repeats that the influenza death rate in Cuba is lower than that in the US, and she repeats her skepticism about how experts know if influenza is the cause of death.

  52. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    Sí. Era un dedazo. Sustuyan “va” por “habla”.

    ¿Tienes evidencia que la influenza A es a raíz de todos los fallecimientos? Significaría que los otros gripes han resultado ser muy seguras. No es posible. Éso es ilógico. Me parece que los expertos están haciendo un supuesto que resulta que es imposible medir los riesgos, los efectos secondarios de esta vacuna y la posibilidad de complicaciones de la enfermidad. Simplemente al tener los anticuerpos para una enfermidad no pruebe que la persona murió de esta enfermidad.

  53. libby says:

    Scott:

    So far Harriet Hall can’t answer my question as to how everyone is so certain that all the deaths are from H1N1. It’s a basic question. We hear about deaths and experts assume it’s a death from H1N1. I suppose this serves somebody’s interest.

    Autopsies might uncover an antibody, but, as you know, having the antibody to a disease does not mean you have had it, let alone that you’ve died from it. It only means you have come in contact with it.

    Re lifestyle has no bearing on the ability of the body to repel disease, I don’t really know what to say, but if modern medicine actually believes this, it is not surprising that we automatically head to band-aid solutions for problems.

  54. Scott says:

    So far Harriet Hall can’t answer my question as to how everyone is so certain that all the deaths are from H1N1.

    Quite irrelevant to the assertions regarding whether lifestyle changes can protect one from the flu.

    Re lifestyle has no bearing on the ability of the body to repel disease, I don’t really know what to say, but if modern medicine actually believes this, it is not surprising that we automatically head to band-aid solutions for problems.

    You made the claim that the lifestyle changes you listed would protect from the flu. If you wish to make such a claim, it is your obligation to provide evidence for it.

    It would be quite silly of modern medicine (or, indeed, any individual) to believe that such lifestyle changes can protect from the flu on any basis OTHER than solid evidence.

    And keep in mind, just because something is established to be beneficial (e.g. avoiding excess consumption of fats and sugars) doesn’t mean that it has any effect on “repel[ling] disease”. Excessive consumption of fats and sugars, to continue with that example, is well-demonstrated to be a risk factor for various medical problems including diabetes and cardiovascular issues, so it’s something to be avoided. (And, I should note, something that mainstream medicine has been warning about for decades.) But the fact that a balanced diet will reduce your risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems does not imply that it will reduce your risk of getting the flu!

  55. weing says:

    “We hear about deaths and experts assume it’s a death from H1N1. I suppose this serves somebody’s interest. ”

    The people who died and their families for sure.

  56. Calli Arcale says:

    Autopsies might uncover an antibody, but, as you know, having the antibody to a disease does not mean you have had it, let alone that you’ve died from it. It only means you have come in contact with it.

    Having the antibody can only mean one of three things:

    1) You’ve had the disease (though it may have been a subclinical case).
    2) You’ve been vaccinated against the disease.
    3) Someone, for reasons unknown, injected you with antibodies against the disease shortly before your death.

    I am not a physician, but as I understand it, the way they tell if a person’s death was due to H1N1 is down to a combination of things:

    1) Flu-like illness.
    2) Influenza confirmed by test to be 2009 H1N1, if possible.
    3) Influenza confirmed by test to be influenza A, if possible. (So far, of those Influenza A specimens tested for actual strain, very nearly all have been 2009 H1N1, which means it’s probably safe to assume that nearly all influenza A cases are 2009 H1N1.)
    4) Season; seasonal flu shouldn’t be prevalent yet, but 2009 H1N1 is known to be prevalent.
    5) Absence of signs pointing to another culprit (e.g. a confirmed measles infection).

    It’s not just “oh look, he died, it must be H1N1.” Obviously they’d like to have definitive evidence, but that’s not always possible. As with a criminal investigation, other evidence sometimes has to suffice.

  57. weing says:

    libby,

    We should all drink clean water for good health. A bottle of clean water won’t prevent you from drowning in the ocean.

  58. Harriet Hall says:

    Libby’s posts in Spanish are inconsiderate to those who don’t speak it. I wonder if she is doing it as a challenge to me to see if I really speak Spanish. I will offer a translation of her last comment:

    Yes. It was a typo. Substitute “goes” for “talks.”

    Do you have evidence that influenza A is the cause of all the deaths? It would mean that other flus have been very safe. That’s not possible. It’s illogical. It seems to me that the experts are making a guess that makes it impossible to measure the risks, the secondary effects of this vaccine and the possibility of complications of the illness. Simply having the antibodies for an illness doesn’t prove that the person died of that illness.

  59. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    I thought most educated Americans had a working knowledge of Spanish. If you want me write in English you need only ask. I suppose I’m more used to Europeans and their facility in a number of languages. My error.

    By the way your translation is very good.

  60. libby says:

    Calli Arcale:

    I don’t believe your assessment is accurate. You can carry anti-bodies without having been vaccinated or without having contracted the disease.

  61. Scott says:

    I thought most educated Americans had a working knowledge of Spanish.

    Why in the world would anyone believe that? It’s not even vaguely standard. Sure, it’s pretty typical for high school students to take a foreign language, and Spanish is most popular, but even having some classes in high school doesn’t translate into a working knowledge as an adult.

    I’m now curious as to whether you live in the US or elsewhere.

  62. weing says:

    libby,

    Life is not as cut and dry as you would like it. Some people may be right on the edge between living and dying and the flu may be just enough to push them over. In others it may be more virulent and destroy more of their lungs so that they go into respiratory failure and die. In others it may set them up for a bacterial pneumonia. In still others it may prime them for a blood clot or a heart attack.

  63. Scott says:

    I don’t believe your assessment is accurate. You can carry anti-bodies without having been vaccinated or without having contracted the disease.

    Please explain the other way or ways you believe one would get such antibodies. (Keeping in mind that “contracting the disease” can include subclinical infection that doesn’t produce symptoms.)

  64. libby says:

    Scott:

    There is such a thing as common sense.

    I don’t need a group of scientists to head to a lab to prove to me that if I’m healthy then I have a greater likelihood of being healthy.

  65. weing says:

    “There is such a thing as common sense. ”

    Ah yes. Do you mean the biases that you acquire by the time you are 18?
    My high school senior math teacher used to say that he found the term “common sense” inaccurate as, in his experience, he found it to be distinctly uncommon.

  66. libby says:

    weing:

    Good points. And I agree, it is complex. Surely though we are in a better position if we focus on the entire area of health rather than band-aid vaccines that perhaps cover one issue at one time.

    I bet MacDonald’s ends up killing far more people than any one disease.

  67. Scott says:

    There is such a thing as common sense.
    I don’t need a group of scientists to head to a lab to prove to me that if I’m healthy then I have a greater likelihood of being healthy.

    Common sense is very often wrong, as are you if you think you can determine whether the referenced lifestyle factors actually influence your chances of getting the flu without careful scientific study.

    Science is necessary precisely because common sense and personal observation are grossly inadequate to reliably answer such questions.

  68. Harriet Hall says:

    libby,

    Your argument works both ways. If doctors in the US were falsely attributing deaths to influenza, the doctors in Cuba could be failing to recognize flu deaths. By the way, you never did tell us the source of your information about Cuba.

  69. Chris says:

    Common sense would tell us that the earth is flat and the sun travels across the sky. Scientific observation tells us that we are on a ovoid globe that is orbiting a star, as part of a solar system in a rotating galaxy, which is one galaxy among millions of galaxies.

    Now as far as your statement “I bet MacDonald’s ends up killing far more people than any one disease.”, perhaps you could back that up with some actual data and evidence.

    To help you along, I found recent data from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm#EIPNVSN (bolding added by me):

    From August 30 – October 24, 2009, 12,466 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated hospitalizations, 530 laboratory-confirmed influenza associated deaths, 25,985 pneumonia and influenza syndrome-based hospitalizations, and 2,916 pneumonia and influenza syndrome-based deaths, were reported to CDC. CDC will continue to use its traditional surveillance systems to track the progress of the 2009-10 influenza season.

    Note that elsewhere in that page it says:

    Sixty-five of the 74 deaths were due to 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infections, and the remaining nine were associated with influenza A virus for which the subtype is undetermined. A total of 114 deaths in children associated with 2009 H1N1 virus have been reported to CDC.

    It should be easy for you to show where McDonald’s has caused the death of over a hundred children in the last few months.

  70. libby says:

    Chris:

    Thanks for the link.

    I found the pediatric chart interesting. As predicted, we’ll hit approximately double the number of deaths over last year. This is still a very low number, and does not warrant the present hysteria.

    Cuba doesn’t have the vaccine and appears, as usual, to be ahead of us in its control (only 7 deaths to date). Harriet Hall does predict a serious outbreak there, but we’ll have to see if that develops and what the final numbers are in terms of fatalities per capita compared with our approach.

    By the way, feel free to eat at MacDonalds. Consider it highly nutritious until such time as a lab proves you wrong.

  71. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    Good point. But they don’t appear to be doing that.

    You can go online and find any Cuban newspaper you want. The best site is

    http://www.prensaescrita.com/

    This is a site for all Spanish newspapers around the world, even small local ones in North American cities. With your linguistic abilities, you should find this quite enjoyable.

  72. libby says:

    Scott:

    Do you really think that any responsible doctor would avoid advising a lifestyle change to save his patient, simply because no study has been done linking lifestyle to health?

    Are you really meaning what you say?

  73. Harriet Hall says:

    libby said
    “Harriet Hall does predict a serious outbreak there”

    No I don’t “predict.” All I did was show the statistics for a previous year and speculate. In comparison to those numbers, the present numbers of flu cases and deaths seem way too small.

    We are all in favor of a healthy lifestyle, and we recommend it to our patients. We just aren’t convinced that it’s enough to prevent influenza.

    I don’t believe most of what I read in newspapers, much less from a Communist country that controls its media. I would be more interested in reading peer-reviewed articles in medical journals.

  74. libby says:

    Harriet Hall:

    The US criticizes the Cuban media for being gov’t controled, Cuba criticizes the US because profits dictate the information (most studies are financed by the drug companies).

    There’s probably truth in both criticisms.

  75. Chris says:

    Libby:

    Cuba doesn’t have the vaccine and appears, as usual, to be ahead of us in its control (only 7 deaths to date).

    And you will, of course, provide the source of your information in your next post. Right?

  76. Th1Th2 says:

    Scott,

    “Please explain the other way or ways you believe one would get such antibodies. (Keeping in mind that “contracting the disease” can include subclinical infection that doesn’t produce symptoms.)”

    Three things.

    1. It sounds like you are clueless that antibody production innately exists during fetal development. This normal physiology alone would make vaccines worthless.

    2. Vaccines do NOT contain antibodies. On the contrary, it is an antigenic preparation derived from etiologic agents that is meant to sensitize the immune system to produce antibodies.

    3. Vaccines do NOT prevent an infection. It may, however, mitigate the symptoms of infection.

  77. Joe says:

    @Th1Th2 on 04 Nov 2009 at 3:04 am “Scott, … It sounds like you are clueless …”

    It may sound like Scott is clueless; but you truly are. His point is that one only produces antibodies to antigens to which one has been exposed.

  78. Th1Th2 says:

    Joe,

    “It may sound like Scott is clueless; but you truly are. His point is that one only produces antibodies to antigens to which one has been exposed.”

    That makes two of you. Where in Grimm’s fairy tales did you learn that “one only produces antibodies to which one has been exposed”?

  79. Scott says:

    Do you really think that any responsible doctor would avoid advising a lifestyle change to save his patient, simply because no study has been done linking lifestyle to health?
    Are you really meaning what you say?

    Absolutely. It’s the only possible responsible thing to do. Without the studies, it is impossible to reasonably conclude that said lifestyle change is beneficial.

    So when it comes right down to it, you’re advocating that doctors give out completely random and unfounded advice. Which is dangerous, costly, and stupid.

  80. Scott says:

    That makes two of you. Where in Grimm’s fairy tales did you learn that “one only produces antibodies to which one has been exposed”?

    Please provide evidence to the contrary.

    However, I’m quite sure you won’t since you’ve repeatedly proven yourself to be far beyond clueless and wouldn’t recognize actual evidence if it walked up and hit you over the head with a baseball bat.

  81. Joe says:

    Th1Th2 on 04 Nov 2009 at 4:32 am “Where in Grimm’s fairy tales did you learn that “one only produces antibodies [to antigens] to which one has been exposed?”

    On page 15. Of course, I did elide the possibility of cross-reactivity.

  82. libby says:

    Scott:

    You are living in a conceptual world if you think all scientific evidence is objective. The real world is quite different, unfortunately.

    Let’s start with the URL for this website:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org

    That is not an objective statement, but I can make it into one:

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicinefinancedbydrugcompanies.org

  83. Scott says:

    You are living in a conceptual world if you think all scientific evidence is objective. The real world is quite different, unfortunately.

    Who said anything about all scientific evidence being objective? I certainly didn’t. My point is that you appear to be laboring under the delusion that such questions can be meaningfully answered is some way other than doing careful science. That is quite simply not true.

  84. libby says:

    Scott:

    So tell me which scientific evidence you consider subjective?

  85. Scott says:

    Why sidetrack into that? It’s completely and utterly irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

  86. libby says:

    Scott:

    I disagree.

    If scientific evidence is subjective then it is very relevant to the discussion.

  87. Scott says:

    And why, pray tell, would that be? Imperfections of science have absolutely nothing whatever to do with the simple fact that non-scientific methods cannot reliably tell us ANYTHING about the extent to which lifestyle factors may protect from the flu.

  88. weing says:

    Scientific evidence is not subjective. The interpretation of it can be subjective. Information may be incomplete as in the fraud perpetrated by some drug firms when they only release studies showing efficacy of their meds and not the negative studies.

  89. libby says:

    For those of you who think vaccines are tested before use, take a look at how GlaxoSmithKline describes the safety of the H1N1 vaccine. Especially impressive is the phrase “no clinical experience yet in the elderly, in children, or in adolescents”:

    Dosage and Administration
    There is currently limited clinical experience with Arepanrix™ H1N1, and limited
    clinical experience with an investigational formulation of another AS03-adjuvanted
    vaccine containing the same or a slightly higher amount of antigen derived from
    A/California/7/2009 (H1N1) (see section Pharmacodynamics) in healthy adults aged 18-
    60 years and no clinical experience yet in the elderly, in children or in adolescents. The
    decision to use Arepanrix™ H1N1 in each age group defined below should take into
    account the extent of the clinical data available with a version of the vaccine containing
    H5N1 antigen and the disease characteristics of the current influenza pandemic.

    Full document: http://www.gsk.ca/english/docs-pdf/Arepanrix_PIL_CAPA01v01.pdf

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