I saw an almost 2-year-old child this morning who’d been given all his vaccinations. He’d had fever since last night, and this morning his mother noticed that the right side of his face and the area under his lower jaw were swollen. My examination wasn’t conclusive – I wasn’t entirely certain that the infection was in the parotid salivary gland; it might also be a bacterial infection of the surrounding lymph nodes (acute lymphadenitis). But as I’d heard that mumps is now circulating in Borough Park among the ultra-Orthodox Jews – the very same location and demographic which had a measles epidemic a few short months ago, and whose relatives are among the population I serve, it was definitely worth checking to see if mumps had arrived in our area as well.
Truth be told, I’ve been discussing the flu and flu vaccines – both seasonal and the swine/H1N1 variety – at work for at least 3 months now. We’ve been seeing a lot of swine flu around here – mostly, thank God, mild cases, but I’ve given my share of Tamiflu to ill pregnant women, asthmatics, and even a little girl with leukemia. It’s about time I discussed it here.
Seasonal flu vaccination is in full swing in our clinic. Spurred by the death of a local woman (she was not a patient of my clinic, but lived across the street) and her full-term fetus from swine flu, patients have been getting themselves and their children vaccinated in record numbers this year.
The first H1N1 vaccine doses arrived here in Israel about 2 weeks ago from Switzerland, but in typical Israeli fashion, the Health Ministry decided not to allow their use in pregnant women (who are 4-5 times as likely to die if they contract the flu) and children under 3 years of age. I was told by our local infectious disease specialist this week that the reason for this was because they contained squalene as an adjuvant, and because squalene is not FDA-approved, the Health Ministry decided to await the arrival of vaccine which doesn’t contain it to vaccinate these groups. The rest of us will be getting the vaccine starting December. (Hebrew link to the Israeli Health Ministry’s FAQ on the subject).
Yes, that sound you hear is my head banging on the desk in frustration.
Anyhow, if you’d like some reliable, alarming (but not alarmist) actual information about swine flu, you’ll want to go to the CDC’s website on the subject. I’m putting their flu widget on the sidebar for now as well, so that if you can access the site from anywhere on the blog if you want to be up on the latest.
Of course, no matter what vaccine is under discussion, you can count on the usual anti-vax crazies to come up with horror stories and conspiracy theories. Dr Val Jones and crew give Dr Joe Mercola (and I use the term ‘Dr.’ very loosely here) a well-deserved tongue-lashing; factcheck.org also has an excellent response to all those hysterical emails you might be getting on the subject (like the one on my local email list today, which quoted liberally from websites such as healthfreedomusa.org and naturalnews.com).
Orac, of course, also weighs in on a story being put out by anti-vaxers about a young woman who allegedly developed dystonia after receiving a flu vaccine. The verdict: most probably a psychogenic disorder. (I have to admit that I thought the same thing when I first saw the video in question, but not being an expert on the subject, I would have hesitated to state this categorically without an expert opinion).
EDITED Nov 5th TO ADD: Sure ’nuff…
And I really can’t talk about vaccines – H1N1 or otherwise – without exhorting those of you (yes, all 3 of you 🙂 ) who haven’t read this fabulous article at wired.com yet, to go and read it. Now.
It’s really nice to be back at blogging, and sorry for the longer-than-usual hiatus. Holidays, work, kids and house renovations (along with a dose of self-destructive perfectionism and writer’s block. Don’t ask) and just plain life conspired to keep me away from this space, but hopefully, things will be settling down in the next few weeks and we’ll be back in our blessed groove again.
Just because I was busy, however, doesn’t mean I gave up my online life entirely. Those of you who blog can probably attest that reading other people’s stuff, and even reacting to written stuff in comments or messageboard posts, is a lot easier than composing blogposts. So I kept up with my reading, and found a lot of material in the past month which made for worthy sequels to things I’d already written about here.
The good folks over at Scicence-Based Medicine (linked in the blogroll to the right) have produced an aggregate of SBM’s posts on the topic of vaccines and autism, along with an overview of the subject written by Dr. Steve Novella and a comprehensive list and discussion of the studies done on the subject.
I didn’t see this one on the list as it doesn’t directly pertain to vaccines, but Dr. Harriet Hall’s latest post is a very good resource to use when answering the biomed mommies, who claim their autistic child improved right after being given this supplement or undergoing that chelation. (See also her article on the placebo effect in the Skeptic e-zine).
Remember Meryl Dorey, who heads the anti-vax Australian Vaccination Network and who was interviewed in connection with the pertussis epidemic in New South Wales that claimed the life of 4-week-old Dana McCaffrey? Well, the Australian Skeptics have decided to lodge a health care complaint against Dorey and her organization for dispensing (really bad!) health care advice in contravention of the Australian Public Health Act of 1993.
You can read all about it (and other odd beliefs Dorey might subscribe to) over at Bad Astronomy.