Am I Giving My Child the Swine Flu Vaccine?

Most of you will be surprised, but yes, I am vaccinating my 10 year old and I am asking my other (college age) children to consider getting the vaccine.  She will be getting the single dose vial immunization (shot, not nasal vaccine) this week.

As many of you know I am against many vaccinations. For instance, I did not vaccinate my children against chicken pox because we do not know if this vaccine provides long term immunity  and I do not want my children to be dealing with this illness as an adult. (I did expose them to the illness when they were young- so now I know they have lifelong immunity to chicken pox.)

I do not recommend getting the cervical vaccine, Gardisil, as it does not offer protection for all strains of the virus associated with cervical cancer. In addition, I have seen some serious adverse effects from its use.

I have not given my children the annual flu vaccine because it is not an “intelligent” vaccine. That is, each year the CDC and the makers guess about the most likely type of  flu that will circulate and build the vaccine based on this prediction. Most years it is only 30-50% accurate. I also worry that my children would not develop immunity to seasonal flus and that repetitive vaccination will weaken their immune system in the long run. Most seasonal flu deaths occur in the very young (<5 yo), and the very old (>65 yo).  I council my patients to decide about flu vaccines for themselves.  If they do well with it, and find it effective, then by all means they can get it. If they do not notice protection or do not tolerate it, I recommend skipping it.

I did not vaccinate my children against the German Measles (Rubella), until adolescence as the Rubella vaccine is necessary to prevent birth defects. I saw no reason to expose my young children’s immune system before they were sexually active.

I am  against multiple vaccinations given at any one time. This can weaken the immune system. I believe that vaccinations should be give separately (single antigen dosing), spaced out over a child’s lifetime, and given at a time when  they most need the vaccine, that is when they expect to be exposed.

So what about the swine flu? I can not convince myself not to vaccinate my children. I have been reading and listening to what is out there. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Most people with H1N1 infection will not die. (But most will  be ill for 2 to 3 weeks and have significant symptoms including painful cough, high fever, diarrhea and vomiting).
  2. Most of the pediatric deaths occurred in children who had underlying  neurologic problems, but, 16.6%  or 6 out of 36 children who died were over the age of 5 and completely normal.
  3. The swine flu vaccine is “intelligent,” that is, it is accurate. It is not a guess of what the virus might look like. We know what the virus looks like and have built a vaccine to protect against it.
  4. There are 2 types of vaccine: (1)a nasal spray, which contains a live, weakened (attenuated) virus and (2)an injection that does not contain any live virus. Most studies have have shown that immunity is better in adults with the injectable form. (Because of my Lyme/immuno-compromised state, I can not be exposed to live vaccines-hence the injectable.)  FYI, the single dose vials of injections are thiomersal free.

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