Public health officials are gearing up for a mass swine flu (H1N1) immunization campaign, first targeting children, pregnant women, and medical workers.
The U.S. government has purchased 195 million doses of swine flu vaccine, and contracted for 120 million doses of adjuvants to stretch the vaccine supply. The production process in eggs is yielding two to four times less viral antigen from H1N1 flu than from seasonal strains.
Is this necessary to prevent a replay of the 1918 influenza epidemic, with up to 350 million deaths worldwide instead of 50–100 million? Or is it 1976 all over again, when swine flu immunizations had to be terminated because the dreaded epidemic failed to occur, but thousands suffered adverse reactions, including Guillain-Barré syndrome, from the shots?
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has taken the precaution of immunizing both government officials and vaccine manufacturers from lawsuits like those filed in 1976, by invoking the 2006 Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREPA). The state of Maine, by declaring a statewide civil emergency, also protects schools and medical personnel from liability claims.
In Australia, the vaccine rollout has been delayed by the government’s refusal to underwrite physicians’ liability. A spokeswoman for the Medical Indemnity Protection Service said the company would cover doctors, but they needed to “appropriately advise patients that the vaccine is untested and may have [currently] unknown consequences…. We do not know the risk [or] benefit of the vaccine versus contracting the disease” (Julie Robotham, Sydney Morning Herald 8/28/09).
This statement highlights the fact that testing has been extremely limited, and only very short-term—only 5 days in the UK (Sunday Times 7/12/09). Officials are relying on the fact that the vaccine is “not radically different” from seasonal flu vaccine. The use of adjuvanted vaccine is different, however. As aluminum adjuvants may not be sufficiently immunogenic, oil-in-water adjuvants are being tried. Novartis’s M59 adjuvant, squalene, is especially controversial.
A compound normally found in the human body—and throughout the nervous system and brain, squalene could hypothetically induce a destructive autoimmune response if injected. Some consider it instrumental in causing Gulf War syndrome. Novartis claims that squalene is poorly immunogenic; that its use in influenza vaccines in Europe and other areas has been well tolerated; and that normal individuals not immunized with squalene-containing vaccines may also have anti-squalene antibodies (Del Guidice G et al. Clin Vaccine Immunol 2006;13:1010-1013). Injected squalene has induced chronic rheumatoid-like arthritis in susceptible strains of rats (Carlson BC et al. Am J Pathol 2000;156:2057-2065).
The effects of the new vaccine on pregnancy outcome or long-term effects on the fetus cannot be known. Concerns are being raised that human papillomavirus vaccine may be associated with an increased miscarriage rate in women who received it less than 3 months before conceiving, an unanticipated consequence (NY Times 9/4/09).
Circulating in cyberspace are apocalyptic concerns about devastation either from an influenza pandemic, or from mass forced vaccination. The following statements appear to be verifiably true:
- We are living in a pandemic era that began in 1918 or before. There is always the possibility of the emergence of a highly pathogenic strain to which the population has no prior immunity. We are in a level 6 pandemic now, according to the World Health Organization’s new definition, which includes worldwide spread but no longer requires high morbidity or mortality. Instead of the feared, severe avian H5N1 strain, the H1N1 swine flu, which is so far less severe than usual seasonal flu, predominates.
- Both the effectiveness and safety of influenza vaccines have been questioned. Extensive, long-term testing, and availability in time to mitigate a 1918-type pandemic, are mutually exclusive objectives.
- There is widespread mistrust of the UN’s WHO, governmental agencies, and pharmaceutical manufacturers. There are huge amounts of money at stake, and serious conflicts of interest at the highest levels. There is much secretiveness. For example, the military is accused of covering up serious adverse effects of experimental vaccines used on troops (WLTV.com 5/7/07).
- As Robert England, M.D., Director of the Maricopa County (Arizona) Department of Health, told the Arizona Medical Association, “we have scary powers” in the event of a declared emergency. Laws are on the books permitting use of the military to forcibly vaccinate, relocate, and quarantine Americans in an emergency.
- “Is It Time to Calm the Hysteria on H1N1 Swine Flu?” AAPS News of the Day 5/9/09.
- Ron Paul discusses swine flu. www.youtube.com, search on “Ron Paul, influenza.”
- “Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy: a Critical Assessment of the Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) by David M. Ayoub, M.D., and F. Edward Yazbak, M.D., J Am Phys Surg , summer 2006.
- AAPS Resolution Concerning Mandatory Vaccines; 2000.
- AAPS on Emergency Powers Legislation.
- “Hands Off Our Kids,” AAPS News, March 2007.