Let me start out this post by saying two things:

1. I am not a doctor, just a concerned parent. This post represents only my opinion, and you should do your own research and consult your own experts before making a decision.

2. I live in Canada. This may seem insignificant, but my readers that live in the United States have many more, and in my opinion better, options available to them.

The Canadian government, like most other governments, has locked up the market on the swine flu vaccine. This means that if you want to get it, you will probably have to get it from a government clinic or vaccination program. This also means that the vast majority of the vaccines on the market today will have been chosen by the government in order to protect the widest cross section of people. Any pandemic prevention program is a numbers game; save the lives of the most number of people possible.

It is in that last sentence that things go from theory to reality for most parents, especially those that live in Canada. You see, the Canadian government has chosen two vaccines to distribute amongst its citizens. One is adjuvanted, one is non-adjuvanted. An adjuvant is a chemical substance that is added to a vaccine to quote “make it more effective” endquote. While that sounds like a good thing, it is a little misleading. See, the efficacy of the adjuvanted vaccine is around 98%, while the efficacy of the non-adjuvanted vaccine is about 95%. That hardly seems like a difference that makes it worth adding extra chemicals to a drug. In reality, an adjuvant does one other thing: it allows the drug manufacturer to use less anti-viral ingredients in the vaccine. Anti-virals are the ingredient that makes the vaccine work, and they are also the ingredient that is in very short supply. By adding an adjuvant to a drug, the manufacturer uses up less of the precious anti-viral ingredient and therefore increases the number of vaccines available to inoculate people. Thus, more people are able to get vaccinated.

At first glance, this seems like a great thing; more people get protected, and the world becomes safer, even for those who are not vaccinated. What’s the problem? Depending on where you live and what your government believes there is either no problem, or some very large concerns are raised. In much of Europe, adjuvants have been used for years. The adjuvant used in the Canadian vaccine is called AS03, and adults in Europe have been taking it or a variant of it for over a decade with very few side effects.

Notice two things: In Europe, and Adults.

In the United States, according to my research, the FDA currently has no approved vaccinations that contain adjuvants, despite their track record in Europe and approval by the World Health Organization. Why? Also, there has been very little data on their use in children. According to the drug information sheet, for children 6 months to 35 months “No clinical data are available for influenza vaccines with AS03 in this age group.”

Wait, did I read that right? There is no history of this drug being used in children from 6 months to 3 years old? Yes, that is correct. In effect, this vaccination program is going to be a very large clinical trial for the safety of adjuvants in children. Sounds creepy to me.

But, didn’t I just say that there are two vaccines, and adjuvanted version, and a non-adjuvanted version? Why not just request the non-adjuvanted version? Interesting. See, in addition to there being no research on the safety of this adjuvant in children under three, there is also no research into the safety of the adjuvant in pregnant women. So, even though the government claims that the adjuvant is safe for pregnant women, they also say that the preferred vaccine for pregnant women is the non-adjuvanted version. Because of this, the end-user does not get to choose the vaccine they receive. To me, that sounds like talking out both sides of your mouth.

Both versions of the drug available in Canada also contain Thimersol.

In the US, you have many other options, including Thimersol free versions, if you can find them, as well as a live-virus version that is inhaled into the nose as a mist.

I placed a phone call to my local health district, and was told that I could request the non-adjuvanted version, but that the decision on which version to give would ultimately be made by the person in charge of the clinic based on demand. There would be no guarantees.

What is a parent to do?

First of all, I’m not a Thimersol conspiracy believer. The drug (which acts as a preservative) is believed by many people to be a trigger for Autism, a disorder with whom any parent is well-versed in this day and age. The problem is, Thimersol was removed from almost every vaccine given to kids in 2001, and the rates of Autism continue to rise. This leads me to think that there is no Thimersol-Autism connection, and the vast majority of doctors agree with this. In my mind, there is no worry here.

Now I need to deal with the issue of adjuvants. There is a lot of talk about these chemicals on the internet, some of it correct, some of it sort of correct, and even more that is wildly wrong. The most glaring example of this is the claim that the adjuvant used in an anthrax vaccine is the cause of Gulf-War Syndrome. All of the actual research that I could find says that this is wrong, and that there was no adjuvant used in that vaccine. Other conspiracy options on the net include the adjuvant being used to sterilize our children for population control to the adjuvant causing a whole host of neurological disorders. I did not however, find any conspiracies relating to a zombie apocalypse, which is a good thing. Unless, of course, the lack of zombie conspiracies is actually a conspiracy in itself?

Even though I love a good conspiracy, I don’t believe that the government is going to knowingly sterilize an entire generation of people. However, I still don’t like the idea of my son being used as a test mule for the government or a drug company.

My available options were as follows:

1. Drive to the US for the nasal mist version.

2. Give my son the adjuvant-free version.

3. Give my son the dose and version reccomended by the government.

I strongly considered option #1. If I lived in the US, this would be my choice. However, the odds of being able to find it in the states near me, coupled with the fact that they probably wouldn’t give it to my son because we were from out of state meant that I had to let it go. My preferred choice was #2. I would gladly trade 3% in effectiveness for the reliability of a known vaccine (the swine flu vaccine anti-viral is created the same way that the seasonal flu anti-viral is created). However, I also decided that, if no other option was available, that I would allow him to get the adjuvant version.

In the end, we trekked to the swine flu vaccination clinic, stated outright that we wished for the non-adjuvant vaccine, and were promptly denied. There was only enough for pregnant women, period. Nick got the adjuvant version.

My decision process basically revolved around two factors. I did not believe that the government (and more importantly, doctors) would knowingly put an entire generation at risk, and also because I did not want Nick to get the swine flu. I have relatives in the medical field, and all of their stories are about how terrible this disease is. I know that there are a lot of anecdotal stories about the swine flu being milder than the regular flu, but in my experience many of these people are not being tested to determine whether they actually have swine flu or the seasonal flu. Doctors are treating everyone as if they have the swine flu to be cautious, but are not testing due to cost. The stories of confirmed swine flu cases I have heard all involve hospitals, very high fevers, and a lot of pain. In addition, the swine flu seems to be affecting younger children more, probably because they have been exposed to fewer viruses over their lives, while older people are more likely to already have some form of protection from the disease.

This was not an easy decision, and I know many will think me foolish for making the decision that I did. At last study, over 50% of people in Canada were not planning on taking the vaccine. I ultimately decided, based on Nick’s previous lack of reactions to vaccines and a (I can’t believe I’m saying this)  trust in the government experts, that my son would be safer taking the vaccine than not taking it.

Whatever you decide to do, please make sure that you thoroughly investigate all of your sources of information. There is a lot of great information out there, but there is also a lot of wildly inaccurate information floating around. Good luck to all of you in whatever you choose.

 Drug Data Sheet:

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodpharma/legislation/interimorders-arretesurgence/prodinfo-vaccin-eng.php

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