H1N1 Vaccine Concerns a Mixed Bag of Misconceptions?

I was fortunate to connect with my contact at the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP) earlier this evening who shared with me a number of interesting insights into the current swirl of controversy surrounding the H1N1 vaccine.

Describing the situation as a “multidimensional problem,” my source at CIDRAP indicated that while it is amazing that the single dose vaccine was ready in just 6 months, a number of things have happened that “should have been anticipated.”

From a big picture standpoint, the challenges with the H1N1 vaccine are a combination of production, distribution and a growing public concern with safety.  The last point regarding safety is particularly perplexing to CIDRAP.

According to my contact, “many of the things noted” in a series of articles from the fall of 2007 titled “The Pandemic Vaccine Puzzle: A seven-part series on the chances for immunizing the world against pandemic flu,” remain true today, especially the “issue with fill/finish capacity.”

Referencing an October 21st CIDRAP News Release (Sebelius vows supply of H1N1 vaccine will soon improve), in which Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promised a Senate committee “that the flow of pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine doses will greatly improve in November,” questions surrounding the safety of the vaccine continue to present a growing problem that will not be addressed by an increase in supply and availability.

Not surprisingly, the debate surrounding the vaccine’s safety has even begun to permeate the social networking world.  This includes the formation of specially created forums such as the “To Vaccinate or not Vaccinate” group on the Social Action Network  “So Act.”

Recent news reports which indicated that people who were immunized last year are more susceptible to this year’s mutated H1N1 strain, than those who did not get the flu shot does little to assuage public concern.

But what is the truth?  Is the treatment and reported risks worse than the virus itself?

On the other hand, CBC News reported the results of a poll earlier this week which indicated that 60% of the people who responded said that they would still go into work even if they had flu symptoms, while 23% stated that they would not miss work even if they were actually sick with the flu.

Against this backdrop of the irresistible force of the virus, and the increasingly immovable will of the public to resist immunization, one can only speculate as to the ultimate outcome.

With immunization programs just under way in Canada, I must admit that with a young family my wife and I are still undecided as to what we will do.

Over the next few days, I will continue to follow-up on this story and will hopefully be in a better position to provide you with information that might shed some much needed light on a situation that is still in the early stages of development.  In the meantime, we are working on a special segment titled the “H1N1 Paradox and a Legacy of Neglect” to air sometime in November.

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