EL PASO — Flu season is officially here and many questions and concerns have been raised about the effectiveness and safety of the swine flu (H1N1) vaccinations that will be available to 600,000 persons here.
“The cases of H1N1 I have treated were very mild. Last year [in the U.S.] we lost 35,000 people from the seasonal flu. We haven’t lost one-tenth of that from H1N1,” said, Amalia Dudzienski, director of the Student Health Center at the University of Texas at El Paso.
H1N1 is especially dangerous for persons with existing health problems such as obesity or respiratory problems like asthma. It also targets, pregnant women and the immune system of younger persons, she said.
“It’s also important to detect a patient’s allergies before giving them a vaccine,” she said. This is why doctors ask patients if they are allergic to eggs because many vaccines are produced in eggs, she said.
Doctors who are experts in infectious diseases have appeared on television lately to inform people about the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu. They have provided information about the persons most at risk of getting the H1N1 virus and the history of successful vaccinations.
There are people who believe H1N1 vaccines are potentially harmful, due to problems with vaccines used to prevent and similar viruses in the past.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta told reporters in early September that the CDC is prepared for changes or mutations in this virus. “Two thirds of the deaths in children from H1N1 were from pre-existing disabilities like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and respiratory conditions,” he said.
Dr. Samuel Bogoch, chairman of Replikins Disease Forecasting and Vaccines, speaking at the International Swine Flu Conference at Washington D.C. in August, compared two types of vaccines that can be used to fight an infectious agent.
“One vaccine is called a ‘synthetic vaccine,’” Bogoch said, “Any vaccine produced from other than the total infectious agent. You can use parts of the infectious agent or no parts of the infectious agent. You could even reproduce the agent in bacteria, caterpillars, insects, and live cells like eggs to make a host vaccine.”
There is a more modern vaccine called “chemically synthesized vaccines,” which are safer because there is no contact with bacteria and are produced rapidly, he said.
The roots of the current skepticism about the H1N1 vaccine date back to 1976 when a nationwide vaccination campaign against swine flu resulted in many persons suffering neurological complications and even death from the vaccine.
Newspaper articles from the period claimed that former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld played a part in the 1976 swine flu vaccine debacle. They explain that Rumsfeld used scare tactics during the Ford administration to get people vaccinated, but 50 people died before the program was suspended.