It is alarming to hear how blasé some people, including some pediatricians, have become about H1N1. On the news last week, there were reports that H1N1 was "no big deal" and that the government had overreacted. The reports went on to indicate that many people would be opting not to vaccinate themselves or their children.
I would like to put those reports in perspective. Below is an excerpt from a daily news digest sent to physicians from the American Medical Association. It is based on information recently released by the Center for Disease Control.
"CDC says 76 children have died of H1N1.
ABC World News (10/9, story 4, 1:50, Gibson) reported, "The CDC said...the [H1N1] virus is widespread in 37 states, and it is having" a "deadly effect on children." The CBS Evening News (10/9, story 6, 2:15, Couric) reported that data indicate the virus is "now widespread in ten more states." NBC Nightly News (10/9, story 4, 2:25, Williams) also reported, "New numbers out from CDC. They show widespread virus and increase in deaths."
The AP (10/9) reported, "Health officials said Friday that 76 children have died of swine flu, including 16 new reports in the past week-more evidence the new virus is unusually dangerous in kids. The regular flu kills between 46 and 88 children a year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data." The Washington Post (10/10, Stein) reported, "While most of the children who have died have had other health problems that made them particularly vulnerable, such as asthma, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy, 20 to 30 percent were otherwise healthy," CDC National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Anne Schuchat said."
This seems to be a very contagious virus. Meaning that if you come into contact with someone who has it, there is a high probability that you too will contract the disease. Luckily, the mortality rate is not as high as once predicted; but that does not mean that everyone who gets sick with H1N1 is okay. 20-30% of the children who have died thus far have had no previous medical problems. That means 15-22 perfectly healthy children got sick with H1N1 and died because of it.
Seasonal flu kills 46-88 children a year. Deaths from H1N1 will probably be slightly higher by the end of the year. That may not seem like a lot, and luckily it isn't given how many children have gotten sick with H1N1. However, these are preventable deaths. For the parents of children who a week before getting sick were perfectly healthy and then suddenly died, I am sure they would have done anything to have prevented their child from getting sick with H1N1. Unfortunately, until now, there was no vaccine available.
The H1N1 vaccine is produced in the same way that the seasonal flu vaccine has been produced for years. There is no adjuvant or squalene added to the H1N1 vaccine. There are preservative free (mercury/thimerosal free) versions of both the seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 available for children and adults.
All the trials of H1N1 have shown it to be a safe vaccine with only mild side effects, such as headache, fever or muscle cramps. In addition, other countries have already been safely administering the vaccine. The H1N1 vaccine has been given to 39,000 people in China with no serious adverse effects reported.
Adults can decide if they want to play the odds and hope that if they get sick that they will be one of the many that get better and not one of the few that die. But children are reliant on their parents to keep them as safe as possible. It would be a shame if the mainstream media's love of dramatics makes it difficult for parents to find reliable information regarding the risks and benefits of vaccinating their children against H1N1.
For parents concerned about the 1976 Swine Flu Vaccination Program Being Halted for Fear of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) click here for more information.