by S. L. Baker
It’s getting crazy out there. New revelations about the novel H1N1 vaccine are raising more questions than ever about its safety while there’s a new drive to push shots of the stuff as quickly as possible on perfectly healthy pregnant women. That means the most vulnerable of all — unborn children — will be exposed to a little-tested vaccine. According to a CDC authored article just published in the British journal Lancet, “Once available, vaccination will be an essential component of the public health response to this influenza, and US guidelines place pregnant women in a high-priority group for receipt of pandemic influenza vaccine.”
Note the keys words in the statement: “once available”. The words you might expect, “once thoroughly tested for safety,” are nowhere to be found. According to an article just published in the Denver Post, Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) own flu chief, has warned about the potential dangers of untested vaccines (although he has stopped short of criticizing Europe’s full-steam-ahead approach of promoting H!NI vaccinations).
To top it off, now comes word out of the FDA’s Vaccine and Related Biologic Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) meeting held on July 23rd that the H1N1 vaccine is going to be laced with the mercury containing preservative thimerosal. That’s right, the same thimerosal that was banned in influenza vaccines in California and several other states starting in 2004. The reason? The mercury-laden toxin has been linked to a number of health concerns — including worries thimerosal caused or contributed to the current autism epidemic.
Is this an absolute scientific fact? No, the jury is still out on the controversy but, bottom line, thimerosal contains mercury. Even more importantly, the targeting of pregnant women seems unwise. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency EPA) web site states that “factors that determine how severe the health effects are from mercury exposure include… the age of the person exposed (the fetus is the most susceptible).”
Other worrisome tidbits of information about the vaccine have been revealed in recent days. A Lancet editorial suggests that any U.S. plan to rely on swine flu vaccines without ingredients to stretch the supply would reduce the number of vaccination shots available other countries. The solution for vaccine manufacturers, allowing them to stretch the vaccine to go further, could be the addition of ingredients called adjuvants. According to breaking news about the use of adjuvants in the H1N1 vaccine, Bloomberg is reporting these compounds have never been approved for flu vaccines in the U.S. and some studies have shown they cause immune disorders in mice. However, back on July 7, in a not-widely-reported announcement, WHO recommended that adjuvants be used to boost production quantity of vaccines available world-wide.
The Age of Autism, a daily web newspaper covering the autism epidemic, has raised some important points about these adjuvants. The web site points out that the VRBPAC was not furnished with information on the safety of adjuvants in the new flu vaccine. “Of concern is that the proposed adjuvants (AS03 and MF59) are squalene (oil) based and studies suggest that exposure to squalene is associated with production of auto-antibodies and auto-immune disease,” the web site states. What’s more, some veterans have claimed that squalene adjuvant in vaccines was responsible for Gulf War Syndrome.
According to the Lancet article, the reason the H1N1 vaccine is being pushed on healthy pregnant women is because from April 15 to May 18, 2009, there were 34 confirmed or probable (that means they were not actually scientifically confirmed as H1N1 at all) cases of H1N1 flu in pregnant US women reported to the CDC. Eleven of these (32 percent) were admitted to hospitals. That hospital admission rate is more than four times higher than for the general population.
But the authors of the article admit this high rate of hospitalization of women with H1N1 could simply be the result of doctors being more likely to admit a pregnant woman to the hospital than someone else in the general population with the exact same symptoms. So there is no real evidence that pregnant women are more hard-hit by the virus than anyone else. Yes, there were six deaths in pregnant US women believed to have the H1N1 flu between April 15 and June 16, 2009. All developed pneumonia and subsequent acute respiratory distress syndrome. But where is the data showing whether they were suffering from other illnesses? What was their nutritional and general health status? Did they have other infections before coming down with the flu? Was it really H1N1 that killed them?
Bottom line: there are more questions than answers about H1N1. Making assumptions, including assuming that healthy pregnant women and their unborn babies will have their health protected by being exposed to an untested vaccine with unknown long term consequences, simply doesn’t make sense. Yes, the H1N1 virus may mutate into something extremely serious. But it is important to remember that, right now, the flu it causes is relatively mild.