Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits

another flu vaccine myth

There is a more general article – about the myth of Big Pharma vaccine profits – which has recently been updated and republished. 

The 2015-16 flu season is upon us, and that means it’s flu vaccine time again. And flu vaccine myth time. There is another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits – that needs to be debunked.

Despite the availability of several flu vaccines, many people think that the flu is a painless, harmless disease, a belief belied by evidence. Wrong.

To put flu in perspective, in the USA, depending on the severity of the flu season, from 3,000 (which happened 25 years ago, and hasn’t been that low since) to 49,000 people die every year. Worldwide, about 250,000 to 500,000 people die from the flu every year. A flu pandemic, like the one in 1918, killed 50-100 million humans, much more scary than Ebola.

Of course, a fairly large group of people, including some who are pro-science (read, pro-vaccine), will fall into the arms of their favorite flu vaccine myth, and then refuse to get the flu vaccine. Given the dangers of the flu, and given the loss in productivity, income, and lives, you’d think that the flu vaccine would be near the top of health care needs for the average person.

My fellow blogger, Tara Haelle, spent numerous hours putting together the Top Myths about the flu vaccine. She debunks these myths completely out of the water. But antivaccination myths are never static, there’s always a new variant. Continue reading “Another flu vaccine myth – Big Pharma profits”

Why we vaccinate–mandatory flu vaccines reduce risk of hospitalization

flu-shot-smiley-face

Updated 28 November 2014.

According to the unsurprising results reported in a new study, published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, in areas where laws mandate that children receive a seasonal flu vaccination, before entering preschool or day care, the rate of flu-related hospitalizations drops significantly. In this study, after Connecticut enacted a law that mandated the vaccine, the rate of children requiring hospitalization because of the flu declined by 12%.

Connecticut’s regulation for flu vaccination (pdf), which took effect in 2010, increased the uptake of childhood flu vaccinations from 67.8% to 84.1%. According to Dr. James Hadler, the lead researcher for the study, “That difference, we feel, has resulted in children attending daycare being better protected against influenza and its severe complications.”

Even though Connecticut’s regulations for flu vaccination allows for some exemptions (the child has a scheduled appoint for the shot soon after the start of school, medical contraindication, or religious belief), it’s obvious that the effort was highly successful in driving up the level of uptake of the flu vaccination, a vaccine that is often ignored by parents for occasionally odd reasons. Continue reading “Why we vaccinate–mandatory flu vaccines reduce risk of hospitalization”

Potential apocalyptic influenza pandemics-H2N2

Posting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.
Posting at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic.

From January 1918 through December 1920, humanity suffered through the one of the worst pandemics of infectious disease for the last 100 years or so. The world was hit by what was called the Spanish Flu (not because it started there, but because news of the flu was censored in most countries involved in World War I, but Spanish news wasn’t censored, so it appeared that Spain was being devastated by the disease). According to conservative estimatesdespite how antivaccination cultists portray flu pandemic estimates, nearly 500 million people worldwide were hit with this flu, and somewhere between 50 and 100 million people died, nearly 5% of the world population at the time. Moreover, the majority of deaths were amongst healthy young males, not, as antivaccination tropes often claim, just to those who are sick and weak already.

A recent article called the 1918 flu pandemic the “mother of all pandemics,” and not just for some rhetorical, literary effect. In fact, the 1918 flu, an H1N1 subtype, is the mother of nearly all subsequent influenza A (for avian) pandemics since 1918–in other words, the original H1N1 subtype has mutated into nearly all of the other subtypes of avian flu.

For example, H2N2 influenza A viruses, which derived from a mutation in the H1N1 subtype while it circulated in birds, were the cause of the 1957-1958 pandemic, which killed nearly 1.5 million people worldwide. Currently, the H2N2 subtype has disappeared from humans, but it persists in wild and domestic birds. Claims that the subtype is extinct are premature.

Unfortunately, a potentially dangerous reemergence of the H2N2 subtype in humans continues to be a significant threat due to the absence of immune system memory of the H2N2 within the adaptive immune system of individuals under the age of 50. In other words, those individuals who were born after 1963, have no immunity to H2N2, and may be susceptible to it.

Researchers examined the presence and potential risk of over 22 strains of avian H2N2 viruses isolated from domestic and wild birds over the past 60 years. Most of the strains replicated in mammalian cell culture, and three transmitted to ferrets, usually used a model for human infection from new flu viruses. The H2N2 virus remains highly pathogenic for mammals, including humans, and there continues to be a major risk for quickly moving from the avian reservoir to humans

The point of this story is not to say that a global apocalyptic event is just around the corner, but it could be. It’s just that if you speak with any infectious disease specialist, their greatest fears are HIV/AIDS and influenza, not some obscure novel pathogen arising quickly then dying out of existence. The influenza A virus mutates quickly, allowing it to avoid human humoral immune responses, it transmits from other species to humans easily, it spreads quickly, and it can be deadly. As recently as 2009, the H1N1 pandemic killed approximately 150,000-500,000 people worldwide.

Of course, the CDC constantly monitors when the virus jumps from the bird reservoir to humans, and if given enough time, can prepare a vaccine to help prevent it. Let’s hope people are smart enough to get it.

Visit the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

Key citations:

Pediatric flu vaccination–it saves children’s lives

If you have any reluctance about having your children receive their annual flu vaccination, look at the chart below:

Flu deaths

 

Children die from the flu virus–282 innocent children died from the flu in 2009-10, 122 in 2010-11, 34 in 2011-12. So far this flu season, 6 children have died. The number varies from highs during pandemic years, such as in 2009-10, and lower in non-pandemic years. 

The CDC predicts that 2012-13 could be serious, and the current flu vaccine protects against 3 subtypes of the seasonal flu in North America: 

  1. A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like
  2. A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like
  3. B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like

There are no valid excuses for avoiding a flu vaccination. Just in case you believe the myths about the flu vaccine, they’re not true. The vaccine does not itself cause the flu. The vaccine is safe for pregnant women. And most of the other myths have been solidly debunked

Get a flu vaccination for your kids. Because Vaccines Save Lives.

Key citations

Visit the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

The importance of flu surveillance

In 2009, the H1N1 flu pandemic was an influenza pandemic that was first described in April 2009. The virus appeared to be a new strain of H1N1, which was responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic, that arose from a triple reassortment of bird, swine and human flu viruses that then further combined with a Eurasian pig flu virus, leading to the term “swine flu” to be used for this pandemic. Unlike other strains of flu, H1N1 does not disproportionately infect older adults (greater than 60 years), which makes this a characteristic feature of this H1N1 pandemic, and made it especially dangerous to children. The CDC has reported some sobering worldwide statistics for the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, including that between 151,700 and 575,400 people perished worldwide from 2009 H1N1 virus infection during the first year the virus circulated.  Continue reading “The importance of flu surveillance”