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Why is it that every night on the news, we see vials of H1N1 vaccine injections rolling down the assembly line, yet when we see video footage of actual vaccination administrations, children are being sprayed with a mist in the nose? Have you ever had a nasal spray vaccine? Probably not, since this is a very new medical technology. The 2009 H1N1 swine flu vaccines finally being shipped out to city health departments across the country consist mostly of the H1N1 spray mist vaccine, known as FluMist. As a parent myself, I want to know what FluMist is and what it’s risks are.. So I went digging. Here is my report:
What is FluMist Vaccine and Is It Safe?
The FluMist vaccine contains a living swine flu virus that is modified (attenuated is the medical term) in such a way that it only infects the nose and throat. There are two reasons for this: first, the H1N1 virus only becomes deadly when it works its way into the lungs; second, the nose and throat are cooler than the lungs and the FluMist virus dies under high temperatures. When the flu spray is administered in to the nose, it remains in the nasal area where the body begins to develop anti-bodies to it.
As good as this may seem, the very big concern we all should keep in mind is the fact that a live virus is being spray up our children’s noses. Think about this for a minute. A dead virus is relatively harmless, but a live virus is a live virus. And it remains living (contagious) for as much as 21 days. The possible side effects published for the H1N1 nasal vaccine are runny nose, cough, and sore throat, quite similar to the common cold. Cold symptoms may seem like a small price to pay in lieu of getting a full-blown, potentially fatal form of the swine flu.
The essential fact to weigh in on is the infectious nature of the nasal flu spray. Many parents may be tempted to have their kids inoculated with the vaccine spray and then send them out with a feeling of security to their schools and playgrounds, where the virus they have just inhaled can be spread. While it’s true and can be argued that the flu virus is only the mild variety — not the lethal form that requires hospitalization — it’s too soon to say if indeed the modification of this living virus contained in the spray really does stay in the nose and throat, and never makes its way to the lungs. There’s no two ways about it, the flu mist does have risks, some of which are untested and unknown.
If you are planning to get a flu vaccine, you will do well to look at these risks. Many of the health professionals I have spoken with, including one at the Mayo Clinic, say that with proper information and precautions, the H1N1 flu spray can be a good idea. Here are the key points they say to keep in mind:
There are 3 forms of the H1N1 vaccine: 1) the vaccine spray mist, 2) single-dose injectable vaccine, and 3) multiple-dose injectable vaccine. Of the 3, the safest is the single-dose flu shot. Because it’s a single use dosage, it does not contain the preservative Thiosermal, which contains mercury. The multiple-dose shot does contain mercury, and though it’s a relatively small amount and is probably not toxic to most people, it can be harmful to some.
If the swine flu vaccine is available in your town or from your doctor, find out which type of vaccine they are dispensing. The truth of the matter is, you probably won’t have a choice of the 3, but if you know in advance which form of the vaccine is available to you, there are precautions you can take to minimize adverse effects of any of the vaccines. Call the clinic that is dispensing the vaccine where you live and ask which type they are giving.
If they are giving the single dose injection, count yourself as lucky. If you get this vaccine, there is not a lot you have to do to minimize side effects other than keep your physical activity, stress and exposure to extreme cold down for several days.
If the multiple dose is available, weigh the fact that a small amount of mercury is contained in the vaccine. This virus is a dead virus, which means it is not transmittable. You might have some mild side effects. To prevent these, minimize your physical activity, stress and exposure to cold for at least a few days. Boost your immune system with additional Vitamin C and antioxidants.
If the flu mist is available, reread this article. If you or your children do choose to get the flu mist vaccine, keep in mind that you will be contagious for as many as 21 days. Keep away from public areas as much as possible, wash your hands regularly and always after blowing your nose or rubbing your eyes, always blow your nose into a Kleenex, and always cough into a Kleenex or into your shirt sleeve. If you start to feel cold-like symptoms, treat it like an illness and not simply a few side effects. Drink lots of fluids, take zinc and Vitamin C throughout the day, rest as much as possible, and don’t eat congesting foods (dairy especially) until you feel better.
Finally, talk to other parents and anyone else you know who has or knows someone who has had any form of the swine flu vaccine. Ask them about the side effects and any suspicion of contagion. The swine flu mist vaccine is still in a proving stage, and it was rushed to market. Don’t be gullible to the fact that a large-scale use of the flu mist vaccination is a fantastic financial and scientific testing opportunity for the vaccine’s maker, Medimmune. It’s your choice if you want to participate in the test.
I encourage you to get informed about the swine flu and vaccine.
The Interesting History of the Nasal Spray Flu Vaccine
I spoke to dozens of people, and none outside the health community has ever heard of spray mist vaccine. The production of a spray vaccine has been a quiet process, initiated by the pharmaceutical company Medimmune, who got permission in 2002 to market an inhalable vaccine. FluMist went to market in 2003 when Medimmune made a deal with Wal-Mart to offer a spray mist vaccination right in the store as a convenient courtesy to shoppers with children. Since the dose is pre-measured in a syringe that needs no needle, this vaccination is not painful to give, does not require an alcohol swabbing, and does not have the issue of disposable needles.
This seeming miracle vaccination immediately met with opposition. A little-known feature of the spray vaccine is that it was made with a live virus, not a dead virus, which is used in all flu shots. The worry in 2003 was that because FluMist contained a live virus, it could make vaccinated children sick and carry that infection to others. Both were true.
Use of the nasal flu vaccination on a wide-spread scale in the U.S. was abandoned. Parents rightly expect a flu vaccination to be a preventive measure, not a potentially harmful one. Medimmune took its spray mist vaccine to the third world, where the need for a needle-free inoculation was greater and where the for its safety were lower. In countries and cultures where there is shortage of needles, lack of refrigeration for injectable vaccine serum, and superstitious fears of injection, the nasal mist seemed to be a great idea and a true life-saver. In these communities, the danger of illness from a vaccine spray is much smaller than a lethal contagion where modern medical care is not available The cost-to-benefit ratio of a spray vaccine containing a live virus is much higher in the third world than first world countries.
America should have seen the last of the live virus flu spray, an experiment that didn’t meet our medical standards. But because the spray is easy to make and dispense, coupled with the overwhelming demand for vaccinations during the height of the swine flu season, we are seeing the H1N1 FluMist ship out by the truckloads.
write by Radley