I’ve received a LOT of views and quite a few replies to my H1N1 post and I felt the need to follow-up, not just with replies but with some more information that I’ve found. I’m certainly no expert and I’m 100% open to all opinions on both sides of the “should I or shouldn’t I” coin…so please don’t take my opinions for anything other than what they are: just opinions.
If you want to take a look at the initial comments that I’m replying to, just go here.
Ashley — I don’t know if it’s accurate to compare the death totals of H1N1 vs. the normal flu because H1N1 has only recently been considered a “pandemic”, the strain that was discovered was only done so back in April, and we’re only now entering the flu season in North America. All the studies are showing that the death rates for H1N1 are climbing on a month-by-month basis…so I don’t think we can compare until we’ve gone through a full-blown flu season. I could be off in that opinion, though.
Based upon the data out there, though, here are some numbers that I have found:
“Death rate extrapolations for USA for Flu: 63,729 per year, 5,310 per month, 1,225 per week, 174 per day, 7 per hour, 0 per minute, 0 per second. Note: this automatic extrapolation calculation uses the deaths statistic: 63,730 annual deaths for influenza and pneumonia (NVSR Sep 2001); estimated 20,000 deaths from flu (NIAID)” – source
These numbers, though, are newer. And when they narrow it down, the numbers vary dramatically between “influenza” and “pneumonia”:
Here are the latest H1N1 statistics that I could find:
When people compare H1N1 death statistics to influenza death statistics, they’re normally accounting for all deaths which include pneumonia. As you can see from the statistics, it would appear as though the death rate from H1N1 is higher than the death rate from just the flu. I haven’t been able to find “100% accurate” numbers, though…and this probably accounts for much of the debate over death rates.
But really, if the initial numbers from 2001 of 20,000 deaths per year attributed to just flu vs. only 1,538 deaths in 2009 attributed to just H1N1 are accurate I can certainly understand the rationale. I’d wait, however, to make that comparison until at least a year has passed…and maybe even two…before you can accurately compare those types of numbers.
So when it comes to my final decision, the death rate is scary enough the way it is without having to compare it against previous annual influenza death rates.
Allison — I’ve never really been a flu-shot-taker, either…but like you I’ve struggled with this decision. I don’t have a problem with Ankle Biter getting the shot primarily because of explanations like this from WebMD senior medical writer Daniel DeNoon:
“But flu itself causes serious problems, including GBS, in far more than two in a million cases. And since a large proportion of the population will get swine flu, the vaccine risk is far smaller than the disease risk.
In clinical trials, 10,000 to 15,000 children and adults have received various manufacturers’ brands of H1N1 swine flu vaccine. Nothing serious happened to any of them:
No vaccine is 100% safe for everyone. Approved vaccines — including the 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccine — are calculated to be much, much less risky than the diseases they prevent. For example, out of every million people who get a flu shot, one or two will get a serious neurological reaction called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS).
But flu itself causes serious problems, including GBS, in far more than two in a million cases. And since a large proportion of the population will get swine flu, the vaccine risk is far smaller than the disease risk.
In clinical trials, 10,000 to 15,000 children and adults have received various manufacturers’ brands of H1N1 swine flu vaccine. Nothing serious happened to any of them”
T & Bobbi, I can understand those flat-out saying “no”. That type of decision makes sense especially after reading something like this:
“The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially stated that there will be as many as 30,000 serious, potentially lethal adverse reactions to the novel H1N1 vaccine, while the FDA guidelines for the novel H1N1 vaccine only require that it work in 3 out of every 10 recipients.
The most disturbing assumption we were asked to accept dealt with the safety of the novel H1N1 vaccine. (The) CDC spokesperson explained that during the 1976 mass vaccination campaign, 1 in every 100,000 recipients of the vaccine developed Guillain Barre syndrome (GBS), a disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nervous system often leading to paralysis and death. There is no known cure for GBS.
In 1976, roughly 40 million Americans received the vaccine and some 4,000 developed GBS.”
Now if you look at other statistics, though, the numbers differ tremendously:
“GBS may be a rare side-effect of influenza vaccines, with an incidence of about one case per million vaccinations. There were indeed reports of GBS affecting about 500 people who had received swine flu immunizations in the 1976 U.S. outbreak of swine flu — 25 of which resulted in death from severe pulmonary complications, leading the government to end that immunization campaign. However, the role of the vaccine in these cases has remained unclear, partly because GBS had an unknown but very low incidence rate in the general population making it difficult to assess whether the vaccine was really increasing the risk for GBS. Later research have concluded to the absence of or to very small increase in the GBS risk due to the 1976 swine flu vaccine. Besides the GBS may not have been directly due to the vaccine but to a bacterial contamination of the vaccine that triggered GBS.”
So what do you believe? Where do you turn? These two references show pretty big differences in statistics. On top of that, the 60 Minutes segment I watched last Sunday brought up GBS and they said that an influenza vaccination had not brought on a case of GBS in the 30+ years since the initial 400 instances of 1976.
BAH!! Too much information!!
Danielle — That’s my thought process, too. A co-worker just came back into the office yesterday after being out all week to take care of her two girls who caught H1N1 from school (they’re teenagers). She had just gotten over a nasty “normal” flu previously and her doctor told her that if she made it through the past week without developing more flu-like symptoms, then she wouldn’t need a shot and would seem to have developed an immune to it. Glad that you and your daughter are alright.
Martini Mom — And that’s the thought process Rugrat’s mom is taking with her, and it’s one I agree with. She doesn’t want to give our daughter the H1N1 shot and I back her decision, but we both reserve the right to change our minds. I wouldn’t have a problem with her decision either way…although with Rugrat turning 11 in January, she’s nearing the “high risk” category. Right decision or not, it’s what we’re doing.
Aaron — I’ve heard that this flu, even if it doesn’t kill you, will knock you flat on your ass. For that reason alone it might be worth taking the shot. I mean, that’s why people normally get flu shots to begin with, right?
Nicole — All of the information in the world cannot replace the “gut feeling” of a parent. I understand that feeling, although with every report that has a child dying really knaws at me and tells me it’s just the right thing to do. And not that I’m wanting to promote it one way or another, I found a Canadian article that did give reasons behind why this vaccine is safe. Here’s an exerpt:
“Because the vaccine contains 10 doses per vial, thimerosal is added to protect it. Thimerosal is ethyl mercury, not methyl mercury, and is excreted quickly from the body. It does not accumulate and is not considereda brain toxin, like methyl mercury.
Methyl mercury can accumulate in the environment and in fish, which represents the most common source of human exposure. The amount of thimerosal used in the influenza vaccine is very small and has not been shown to cause any harm.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (which includes recognized experts in the fields of paediatrics, infectious diseases, immunology, medical microbiology, internal medicine and public health) has reviewed the latest science and concluded, “there is no legitimate safety reason to avoid the use of thimerosal-containing products for children or older individuals.” The vaccines that Canadian children and adults receive are safe.”
Rose DesRochers — And that, my friend, is what scares me the most. NOT getting it and having my child come down with H1N1. I hope she’s feeling better very soon.
Brandi Faulkner — I guess your situation goes back to what Daniel Denoon said on WebMd with that quote above…the chance of getting complications from the vaccine are minimal in comparison to complications from actually contracting the disease. I’m glad your children are doing well.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is not enough solid evidence out there to help me make a decision explicitly one way or the other.
Let the debate continue…