Monday, November 16, 2009

Increased concern over H1N1 vaccine

It may be in the realms of a conspiracy theory, but there are growing concerns over the A/H1N1 vaccine after a number of deaths and other complications linked to the preventative injection. In China last week the state news organisation Xinhua announced that two people had died after being given the vaccine. According to Deng Haihua, the Ministry of Health spokesman, one of those who died, a teacher from Hunan province, suffered a "sudden cardiac death." 

But Liu Dawei, an official in charge of vaccination with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, insisted A/H1N1 vaccines were safe and said abnormal reactions amounted to 1.3 in 100,000. However the authorities have admitted there are some reactions to the vaccine. Chinese health authorities have so far inoculated more than 13 million people with the China-made A/H1N1 flu vaccine. Of these a total of 1,235 people who had received the vaccine were suspected to have abnormal reactions from the vaccines Liu Dawei said. Among them, 950 were suffering from "ordinary reactions" such as fever and local swellings. However, 143 people were suffering from some "comparatively rarely seen abnormal reactions." Liu did not detail what the "rare" abnormal reactions were, but he revealed that 15 people had suffered from relatively serious abnormal reactions such as anaphylactic shocks and allergy-induced laryngeal edema. Other side effects cited range from sore arms, rashes, and headaches, to sudden drops in blood pressure. 

Time magazine also reported the deaths in an article this week. It reports that widespread concern exists in China. In October the China Daily reported that in a survey it conducted some 54% of Chinese residents said that they would not get the H1N1 vaccine because of concerns about the shot's safety. That prompted the director of the World Health Organization's Beijing office, Dr. Michael O'Leary, to tell the newspaper, "The H1N1 vaccine is one of the safest vaccines being used. When it's available to me, I would not hesitate to get the vaccine developed and produced by China." As of Friday afternoon [13/11/2009], the Chinese mainland had reported close to 66,000 cases of the A/H1N1 flu, of which 43 have proved to be fatal.

French woman ill

In other developments it has been reported that a French woman suffered a crippling illness after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine. The woman, identified only as a health worker, was diagnosed with the crippling illness Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) after a swine flu shot. It followed other reports about a Virginia teenager who was similarly struck down by the disease hours after receiving the A/H1N1 vaccine.

According to the French health ministry the woman became ill within 6 days of being inoculated. Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the case diagnosed was light and that the woman was recovering. The Deutsche Press-Agenture said, news of the apparently vaccine-related illness is likely to dampen enthusiasm for getting vaccinated against swine flu. There has also been outrage in Germany after it was reported that some ministers as well as the armed forces there received a special additive-free A/H1N1 vaccine that did not contain ingredients such as mercury and squalene that were included in shots for the general public.

France's swine flu vaccination program has barely even begun and reports of side-effects this early will do nothing to change the minds of 83% of the French public who told Le Monde they would not take the vaccine. Similar resistance to taking the vaccine is widespread throughout the continent, from Scandanavia to Bulgaria to the Netherlands. In Germany only 13% of respondents to a survey said they would take the vaccine.

Previous warnings

Last August there were already warnings after officials warned doctors of possible similarities between the new swine flu vaccine and a jab linked to 25 deaths in America in the 1970s. The government's Health Protection Agency (HPA), said in a letter to neurologists that they needed to look out for increases in cases of a brain disorder that might follow the launch of the immunisation programme. 

In 1976, Washington rushed in a mass immunisation programme against a swine flu outbreak that was confined to a single military base. Several hundred cases of a rare, lethal, paralysing neurological disease called Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome (GBS) were reported afterwards, and although no clear link was ever found to the vaccine, the incident made many people mistrustful of immunisations [Times].

Religious warnings

There is further controversy in Croatia after Croatian priest Miroslav Bustruk appealed to Croatians not to get vaccinated against the Swine flu vaccine. In a church ceremony dedicated to St Martin, father's Bustruk statement caused an avalanche of reactions in Croatia. The Croatian daily "Jutarnji List" reported father Bustruk as saying the vaccine amounted to a bio-weapon. "I appeal to you, to not get vaccinated for the so called Swine Flu under any circumstance. There is a plan for massive destruction of humanity worldwide. For this purpose we will see new diseases springing up everywhere," father Bustruk was quoted as saying.

"The H1N1 vaccine itself is a very sophisticated weapon whose implanted microchip will control the health of the human being," the Croatian priest claimed. A colleague of father Bustrik stood in defence of the priest's assertions. Don Jure Zubovik also claimed others who had been victimized for making their views known. "Certain people who have spoken out or warned against the vaccine are already in jail," Zubovik said [Macedonia Online].

Mutations reported

Meanwhile the Sunday Express in the UK has published as story suggesting that the world may face an even greater threat from a super virus. According to the paper a "cocktail of three flu viruses" are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people may have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine, the Express states. President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus samples of which have been sent to London for analysis.

President Yushchenko said, "People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century." In a TV interview, the President added, "Unlike similar epidemics in other countries, three causes of serious viral infections came together simultaneously in Ukraine – two seasonal flus and the Californian flu. Virologists conclude that this combination of infections may produce an even more aggressive new virus as a result of mutation." Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has been touring hospitals where victims are being treated and presidential elections in January could be cancelled the paper says.

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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