Friday, September 21, 2012

Swine flu

In 1976, I, among several million others, received a swine flue vaccine.  Because I was in the military at the time, MY swine flue was one of the "experimental" vaccines.  So I can personally attest that human experiments WERE carried out before this vaccine was released upon the general public.  This was controvercial because at that point, only one person had actually died from the swine flue, but when you consider that experts were worried that the swine flue was identical to the 1918 virus which killed three percent of the world's population you can see why they would be concerned.  In Canada, for instance, fifty thousand people died from that flue.   I think that was significant enough of a risk that I was willing to be the human guinea pig they needed to test the vaccine.  Lots of people have suggested that the vaccine created some dreaded side effects....though even this is controvercial since the side effects seem to be much the same as in the unvaccinated population in general, so there might not be a cut and dried correlation.   Subsequent research has proven that in fact the 1976 swine flue vaccine was NOT the deadly virus, it was an H1N1 virus, which continues to kill. (nine deaths in Ireland in 2009 for instance, down from 14 the year before.)   and the question of the creation of side effects (including Gillian Barre syndrom) of the vaccine seems like a false correlational link.  (As I said, there is still controversy...)  The studies done in 1976 have been able to break down the flu straines into type A, B and C, and they are just as deadly as they ever were...swine flu kills pigs and can be transmitted to humans but not easily, avian flu kills chickens and birds, and it too can cross the species barrier but again, not easily.  The latest pandemic occured only a couple of years ago, and it has been determined to be the same strain and just as deadly as the 1918 flu....though people that had ANY flu shots always got it less severely than others.  As deadly as H1N5 is (remember, 3% of the entire world's population!  That's serious!), it can be slowed down and stopped...once you have it for instance and if you don't die from it, you will never get it again. If you get vaccinated against it, you will never get it.   If you DO get it, you have a quarter of one percent chance of dying from it, a one percent chance of being bed ridden and missing work, and a ninety seven percent chance of having it without any worse symptoms than a snotty nose. And you have a hundred percent chance of passing it along to somebody who may not have your natural immunity.   So, because I am a teacher, I always figured that I had a civic duty to at least not pass it on, even if I am taking a one in a million risk of a deady side effect.
      (oh, a false correlational link is one which seems to be there, but is actually not.  The correlation between eating pickles and car accidents is a false link, but the correlation between being in a car accident and driving on the road would be real link.  False correlational links are the noise which obscures the signal.  Andy Wakefield's study of a link between autism and MMR vaccines has been proven to be a false correlation, just as a for instance.)

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