I must admit when I see every major newspaper carrying full-page advertisements exhorting me to do something, a sense of inner rebellion wells up making me not want to do it. In the ad, Dr. Arlene King, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health implores:
I hear it all the time – various reasons for people not getting their H1N1 flu shot. The fact is H1N1 flu is now circulating in our communities and resulting in illness, even among young healthy people. It’s new, it’s different and it spreads quickly.
Here is something else that is new and different: the H1N1 vaccine:
The federal government insists that the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine is perfectly safe. But it has agreed to cover the cost of any lawsuits launched against manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline should something go wrong.
And it admits that it approved the vaccine, known as Arepanrix, before Glaxo finished conducting any clinical trials on it.
The problem, it seems, is that Ottawa ran out of time to test the vaccine properly.
With the flu season starting and no clinical results from the Canadian vaccine yet in, the government decided to rely instead on tests of what Health Canada’s website calls “a closely similar” H1N1 vaccine manufactured for the European market by Glaxo and known as Pandemrix.
The European Medicines Agency approved Pandemrix a month ago following clinical trials involving 129 healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 60.
But so far, according to the Health Canada website, there have been no tests on children or those over 60 – for either vaccine.
Instead, the federal government is relying largely on results from what Health Canada calls a “mock” vaccine based on an entirely different strain of flu.
Yet even there, according to information posted on the Health Canada website, testing is spotty.
In particular, there are no clinical data available on how any kind of flu vaccine using so-called adjuvants (materials mixed in to make a dose go farther) affects children from ages 3 to 6 and 10 to 17.
For weeks, the federal government has refused to say whether it would follow Washington’s lead and somehow shield Canada’s sole H1N1 vaccine maker from lawsuits.
“Subject to some restrictions, Canada has agreed to indemnify GSK (Glaxo) for the H1N1 vaccine,” a company spokeswoman said in an email.
Strange that the same government that is beseeching us to receive an injection of something that is so safe was initially unwilling to shield the drug company that is producing it.
Altogether I’m rather glad about the ads, even though I helped pay for them: I now have a few extra reasons for not getting the H1N1 flu shot:
The redoubtable Dr. King sounds as if she is protesting too much;
When someone insists that they know what’s good for me, I am immediately suspicious;
There is every likelihood that those who refuse the H1N1 shot will be demoted to the rank of social pariah – a category in which I feel quite at home.
And – I almost forgot – the last flu shot I had gave me the flu.