Flu Vaccines – Special Guest Post By Pixie

It is the anti-vaccine pseudo-science websites and blogs which convince the moms that there is more danger in their child getting a vaccine than not.

The solution may not be to provide “correct information” on *safety* — often dismissed by the reader out of hand — but to provide “correct information” on the dangers of *not* getting vaccinated. That’s the missing piece. And that information can’t be presented once or twice. It can’t just be ponied out at the beginning of flu season. CDC has to go toe-to-toe with the 24/7/365 information cycle of the anti-vaccine websites and bloggers. They are relentless. The contrary message would have to be just as round-the-clock and relentless to have a hope of success.

The solution would, then, be to provide the public with outcome information, rather than statements about dry counter-studies filled with data, data which readers often suspect has been manipulated to serve someone else’s ends.

In the world of new media, whats lacking are the *stories* of adverse outcomes. Most moms, most pregnant women, have absolutely no idea *why* they should be vaccinated on a personal level. And I do mean not from a public health standpoint (which is often the stance that CDC takes) but from an individual perspective. The anti-vaccine websites and bloggers focus on the individual, not on some dry construct like “public health.” They talk about that mom’s kid, specifically. They seem to care.

When reading CDC statements, many moms find them to be self-serving of the interests of the CDC and other monolithic (and often, to them, suspect) entities. When CDC lists negative possible outcomes for their unvaccinated children, it’s often stated in dry, succinct, language. These statements are all too easy to disregard.

In contrast, the anti-vaccine propagandists use the new media very well indeed. They spell out, in technicolor language, all the horrors of vaccination as they see them. They provide a complex and convincing argument for vaccinations benefitting not some mom’s child, but “big pharma” and other powerful shadowy entities.

This “information” is repeated endlessly in various flavors. There is always something new to come back and “learn” on these websites.

In the mind of the mom, soon there’s no contest.

If CDC wants to promote the benefits of vaccination, they will need to promote the reality of some very negative outcomes that can happen to the unvaccinated. But they need to be serious about it, and do it in the style of the best new media practitioners. If they do that, then there’s a counter-artument, and the mom or the pregnant woman will have to take some time to actually weigh the vision of one negative outcome against another. At least, in that light, vaccination might stand a chance.

Will popping up in September with a photo and story of one unvaccinated kid on an ECMO machine work if CDC tries such a halfway measure? Of course not. They’ll be throwing rocks at a mountain, and their timing and motives will seem highly suspicious.

Now, CDC will say that privacy laws prevent the telling of these stories. Balderdash. Every day we see stories in local media in which the relatives of unvaccinated and critically ill or dead flu patients say that they’ll do anything it takes to let others know that they need to get vaccinated. And they often state that they’re sorry that they believed the anti-vaccine propaganda.

Each and every time a family is faced with their child barely surviving weeks on a heart/lung machine (and damaged for life) or worse, the death of their child from something “ordinary” like influenza, they say: “We just didn’t know what could happen. We never imagined it. We never knew. We had no idea.”

So if CDC wants to fight an information war, they have to fight it with the kind of information that their opponent has been using to win it. NONE of my co-op class students apart from my own was vaccinated against flu this year. ALL of their families “believe in” the dangers of vaccines. NONE of them know anything at all about the kinds of adverse and tragic outcomes that can come from remaining unvaccinated. NONE of the modern moms I know have any idea at all what it was like for families, for kids, before the era of childhood vaccines.

That’s an abject failure of communications on the part of the CDC. CDC doesn’t need a multi-million dollar communications center and budget. It needs a few good bloggers and a website or two that can tell a STORY.

As long as CDC acts like the bureaucracy it is, as long as it does not step up and provide a counter-story, the other, more dramatic, stories and claims (no matter how bogus) will win, vaccination rates will continue to remain low, and more kids and pregnant women will die. The tragedy is that they will die not ever knowing anything about the real danger they were entertaining by making the choice to remain unvaccinated.

If they had been able to compare the true dangers, they may have made another choice.

Moms don’t want to hear about “societal costs” or economics. They don’t want to hear about “pubic health.” They want to protect their kids from danger. Until you appeal to that hard-wired sentiment, forgetaboutit.

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pH1N1 and suppression of the immune system – another report

From NBCDFW, January 19, 2014 [hat-tip, Pixie]

“I have never seen a case of [Influenza] Type A followed by Type B right off,” said Dr. Honaker. “The immune system should kick in with Type A so you don’t get Type B, and this year we are seeing people in my office who have Type A and two or three weeks later they have type B.”

This is an anecdotal report from a physician in North Texas. An adequately powered study will need to be conducted before we can be sure that Dr. Honaker’s impression is true. However, given that there have been previous reports that pH1N1 is associated with immune system dysfunction, this issue deserves additional scrutiny.

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Cryptic infection of Canadian visitor with H5N1 in China

A resident of Alberta Canada has just died after being infected with H5N1 after visiting Beijing China [hat-tip, NawtyBits].

Some facts:

Date of symptom onset: December 27, 2014
Date of hospitalisation: January 1, 2014
Date of death – January 3, 2014

The person who died first reported symptoms while on Air Canada flight 030 from Beijing to Vancouver on December 27, 2013.

This person presented with unusual neurological symptoms rather than the typical respiratory signs.

There have been no reports of H5N1 in Beijing nor any explanation of how the visitor from Canada was infected.

The odds that one visitor from another country was infected as a result of environmental exposure in China but that no one in China has been infected by the same source are vanishingly low.

As Dr. Niman has pointed out, it is odd that H5N1 cases are being missed in China given the intense scrutiny influenza patients are receiving due to the ongoing reports of H7N9 infections.

As Pixie has pointed out, there is a curious lack of urgency or concern on the part of Chinese officials to uncover how this visitor from Canada was infected, presumably in Beijing. In fact, in this Xinhua story, there is no indication that Chinese officials are attempting to find the source of the infection. This is odd.

So, how did the visitor from Canada get infected with H5N1 in China? At this point, all we can say is that the source is hidden.

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Vaccine shortages and price gouging

From news-journal.com, December 24, 2013

Holbert said the pharmacy at Louis Morgan has vaccinated between 75 and 100 people each day for the past two weeks and is running low on flu shots. The pharmacy has been buying flu vaccines from southeastern states that haven’t had as many cases of influenza-like illness, including Georgia and Mississippi, he said

“We have 150 flu vaccines left right now,” he said. “We are paying double in certain situations but we are still buying them. We’re just trying to make sure everybody’s covered.”

It is understandable why Texas pharmacies would want to obtain flu vaccines from wherever they can under current circumstances. But public health and government officials in other states should consider what is likely to happen when stories about severe illness and death start to appear in their States.

I don’t like the report that pharmacies are “paying double” for vaccines in “certain situations”. Price gouging for vaccines during a medical emergency should be illegal – if it isn’t already. Government authorities better get on top of this quickly or black market vaccines may be coming next.

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Tamiflu in short supply in Texas

From The Victoria Advocate, December 22, 2013

“I’ve seen almost 200 confirmed cases in the last three days,” McNeill said. “We have to call around to different pharmacies because Tamiflu is in short supply.”

[snip]

“We prescribe Tamiflu if it’s caught in the first 48 hours,” Barrett-Garcia said. “But it’s very expensive, and most of our patients don’t have insurance.”

The flu can last for two weeks, and Tamiflu knocks the symptoms down more quickly, she said.

Without Tamiflu, McNeill suggests patients stay well-hydrated, take Tylenol or Motrin to control fever and body aches and see a doctor if symptoms worsen.

“One patient with the flu went by ambulance to the hospital today,” McNeill said.

[snip]

Dr. John McNeill is “owner and physician of Twin Fountains Walk-In Health Clinics”.

Shana Barrett-Garcia is “a medical assistant.”

Is Tamiflu in such short supply that at least some people, the ones without health insurance, are being advised to take Tylenol instead? Further clarification is requested.

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Flu deaths should be reportable for everyone

We are facing a veritable storm of viruses. Given this, you would think that all deaths related to flu symptoms would reportable. But they’re not.

Flu deaths in children are reportable. But not in adults. Given that flu can cause pandemics, all flu-related deaths should be reportable.

Isn’t this obvious?

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The return of H1N1

pH1N1 has been quiet the past few years. But now its back. And its killing people.

From KHOU, December 19, 2013

Health officials say there have been six confirmed deaths from H1N1 in the Houston area recently, KHOU 11 News confirmed Thursday afternoon. That includes the four deaths at Conroe Regional Medical Center.

At least 14 people have become critically ill in Harris, Montgomery and Jefferson counties, including the four patients at Conroe Regional Medical Center.

Although public health officials are saying that this is the same strain that caused the pandemic of 2008/2009, we won’t really know that until the sequences from Conroe Texas have been made publicly accessible. In the meantime, it would be wise not to assume that either previous exposure or vaccine status is protective. They may be. But I woudn’t bet my life on it.

Given demonstrated problems with detection of the virus and its ability to kill, public health authorities are recommending prescription of Tamiflu based on symptoms alone. This is a wise policy.

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