H1N1 vaccine myths

I haven’t had the flu since I was a kid. I never get flu shots. I wasn’t planning on getting an H1N1 shot when it becomes available but after listening to yesterday’s Midmorning show on MPR, I find myself now considering it. Medical myths and H1N1. Are you going to get the shot or not?

Public health officials are trying to figure out why a majority of Americans, including many public health nurses and doctors, have told pollsters recently they are wary of the H1N1 vaccine. Wary to the point that they’re not sure they will get the shot against H1N1 flu. A look at medical myths and what fuels the fear of vaccines. Guests

  • Gregory Poland, MD: Professor of medicine and infectious disease at Mayo Clinic and director of the Mayo vaccine research group.
  • Sandra Quinn: Associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
  • Rachel Vreeman, MD: Assistant professor of pediatrics in the Children’s Health Services Research Program at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children. She’s the co-author with Dr. Aaron Carroll of "Don’t Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health."

14 thoughts on “H1N1 vaccine myths”

  1. Polio is non-lethal for most of those infected–but the lasting deformity of the nerve system is tough to live with.

    Small pox is more lethal, but we don’t vaccinate because it has been eliminated–through vaccination.

    Unfortunately this strain of H1N1 is lethal to some–and it is killing young,otherwise healthy people–not just the elderly and infirm.

    It is lethal for many people. And for the ones it is not lethal for–they are spreading it so those at risk of complications are more likely to be infected.

    H1N1 is contagious for a much longer period of time than the regular flu–so a carrier is more likely to infect many more people.

    Recently, an otherwise healthy six-year-old Minnesota boy died of H1N1. NO UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS. He had a common complication of the flu and died in the ambulance his parents called for when he became sicker than what they thought was normal.

    If someone you know has the flu (any flu) and seems to be recoveing but suddenly become sicker –seek medical assistance immediately. It is a symtom of the deadliest complications of the flu.

    The issue with vaccines is that they are most affective when more people get them. All those of you too tough to take vaccine are putting the rest of the population at risk.

    Vaccines do not confer 100% immunity–you can still get a virus that you have been vaccinated against if your immune system has not had time to complete immunity protection through the production of the antibodies.

    Because viruses mutate, the antibodies in your body from the vaccine may not give complete immunity–but it does jump-start your immune system against the virus, giving you a better chance of not getting sick, or if you do get the virus, your body will be able to defeat it more rapidly–meaning you won’t get very sick.

  2. Since I am diabetic, I fall within that segment of the population that is at a higher risk for contracting the virus. I for sure am going to get the shot.

    Jane- Your post is 100% right on, IMO. I knew many people in my parent’s generation who had contracted polio who had life-long deformities from the disease. Unless someone is alergic to eggs, I see no reason to skip the flu shot if it is available. Our society is much more susceptable to communicable diseases than in years past because we spend more and more of our lives in confined spaces with large numbers of people, ie.: shopping malls, large schools, large office buildings, public transportation, etc.

  3. All standard vaccines are designed to prevent infection with potentially lethal viruses or bacteria. The influenza vaccine (both seasonal and H1N1) is no exception.

    Tragically, this year’s H1N1 flu outbreak is already killing people in Minnesota – even people without any underlying medical problems:

    Boy’s death deepens H1N1 worry
    By JOSEPHINE MARCOTTY, Star Tribune
    Last update: October 5, 2009 – 10:20 PM

    It’s a scenario that strikes terror in most any parent: A perfectly healthy first-grader dies of flu in the ambulance outside his home. How could it happen?

    In the most recent H1N1 flu death in Minnesota, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s office said that 6-year-old Nathanael Schilling of Corcoran died on Sept. 24 from an inflammation of the heart, a rare complication that can result from a flu infection.

    He was a first-grader at St. John’s Lutheran School in Corcoran, according to his newspaper funeral notice.

    It was the seventh death from H1N1 in Minnesota, and the second time this year that an otherwise healthy child died after becoming infected with the new flu strain.

    Health officials say they still expect the new virus to be no more deadly than ordinary seasonal flu, which kills 36,000 Americans in an average year. What’s different this year is that children appear to be more vulnerable to the new strain than to seasonal flu.

    The previous child fatality in Minnesota, which occurred in July, also involved an otherwise healthy child. That 2-year-old died because of a co-occurring bacterial infection — pneumococcus, which causes pneumonia, said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota state epidemiologist.

    http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/health/virus/63531287.html

    That’s seven deaths in the state already, with two of them in healthy, ‘normal’ children.

    I strongly urge all parents to get their children vaccinated against H1N1 as soon as the vaccine is available to the general public. I will certainly do so for my daughter promptly when she is old enough to be eligible for it.

  4. The following resources are good places to get accurate, reliable information on Influenza and Influenza vaccines:

    Flu Myths and Realities: Can you believe the latest?
    http://www.flu.gov/myths/index.html
    http://www.flu.gov/

    H1N1 Flu Vaccine: Setting the Record Straight
    http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/flu/basics/mythfact.html
    http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/flu/index.html

    The Northfield Hospital and FamilyHealth Clinics will soon be contacting patients and families who are at higher risk of complications from the flu, in order to provide these neediest individuals with prompt vaccination soon after we receive our first vaccines. As soon as additional doses are available, those would then be made available generally.

    Please see here for additional information, as it becomes available:
    http://northfieldhospital.org/health/H1N1-flu.html

  5. The following resources are good places to get accurate, reliable information on Influenza and Influenza vaccines:

    Flu Myths and Realities: Can you believe the latest?
    http://www.flu.gov/myths/index.html
    http://www.flu.gov/

    H1N1 Flu Vaccine: Setting the Record Straight
    http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/flu/index.html

    The Northfield Hospital and FamilyHealth Clinics will soon be contacting patients and families who are at higher risk of complications from the flu, in order to provide these neediest individuals with prompt vaccination soon after we receive our first vaccines. As soon as additional doses are available, those would then be made available generally.

    Please see here for additional information, as it becomes available:
    http://northfieldhospital.org/health/H1N1-flu.html

  6. It doesn’t look like we are getting the shots anytime soon for H1N1, so I am looking to prevention by staying home, and keeping my breathing parts, where the virus does incubate, super clean a couple of times per day.

    When it comes out, I will get it and give myself a decent chance of not getting a full blown viral attack.

  7. Minnesota records three more deaths associated with H1N1 novel influenza

    Three more Minnesota residents have died from complications due to infection with the H1N1 novel influenza virus, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reported today. They were a Martin County woman in her early sixties, a Steele County child and a Freeborn County child, both under 7 years of age. All died within the last two weeks and all had underlying health conditions. These cases bring to 10 the total Minnesota deaths related to the H1N1 outbreak since last April.

    To date, MDH has received reports of 611 hospitalized cases of confirmed H1N1 novel influenza in Minnesota. In addition, 230 schools reported last week to MDH that they had either five percent of their student body absent or three students in an elementary school classroom absent due to flu-like illness.

    “We continue to follow this pandemic closely, and although we are seeing widespread infection due to H1N1 influenza, we are not seeing a change in the severity of the disease. Most people recover without complications, but unfortunately some people, particularly those who are pregnant, those who are very young or elderly, or those who have underlying medical conditions, are at risk for more severe illness or complications,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, state epidemiologist for MDH. “This is why we urge people to help stop the spread of this virus by staying home when they are sick and covering their coughs and washing their hands and by getting vaccinated.”

    Getting vaccinated is the best protection against the virus. While the vaccine for H1N1 is not yet available for the general public, it is being provided to health care workers and some of the very highest risk pediatric patients and pregnant women. Priority groups will then include the remaining children and adults under 25 years, and those under 65 who have certain medical conditions; and following these groups anyone else who wishes vaccination. Vaccine shipments are expected to continue over the coming months…

    If you do have flu symptoms and want to speak with a nurse about your illness, call your health care provider or the Minnesota FluLine at 866-259-4655.

    Minnesota Department of Health News Release, October 22, 2009
    http://www.health.state.mn.us/news/pressrel/2009/h1n1102209.html

  8. Thanks for posting that, Patrick. I was at the Nfld Middle School today and they have disinfectant dispensers everywhere. I used ’em 3 times.

    I’m heading to Carleton for a meeting shortly, with my new protective outfit:

  9. One of the things I have heard of recently is that drinking hot liquids can destroy the virus. I often cringe when I see people throwing down boiling hot coffee, but now I will have to reassess that whole scene.
    Listerine twice a day is supposedly another way to keep airborne illness at bay.

    1. Bright,
      Don’t believe all the things you ‘hear.’ Neither of those things is likely to do much of anything to protect you from influenza.

  10. I’ve tried to shake Griff’s hand at least six times in the past two weeks. All I ever get back is a fist bump.

    Then I started fist-bumping myself a couple days ago.

    This piece) suggests the H1N1 vaccine might not be that effective anyway.

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