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Narcolepsy fears may halt swine flu vaccine: Finland and Sweden/ AFP

Posted Aug 24 2010 6:22pm
Agence France Presse reports that Finland and Sweden fear that narcolepsy in children could be a consequence of receiving GSK's Pandemrix flu vaccine.   Pandemrix is last year's swine flu vaccine. 

Its use has now been halted for all in Finland , despite Finland's health minister saying last week that the vaccination programme would continue
Finland's National Institute for Health and Wefare recommended Tuesday halting the use of the Pandemrix swine flu vaccine until a probe into a possible link to narcolepsy among children is concluded.
"At the moment we are not having a (swine flu) epidemic, so there is no immediate need for vaccination," the agency said in a statement.
"Besides, major parts of the population are protected against the swine flu virus either through vaccination or or after having swine flu," it added.
According to YLE , the head physician of the Finnish Medicines Agency, Kari Lankinen, says doctors failed to report their suspicions of swine flu vaccine side effects due to fears, for example, that they might have difficulty publishing in international journals.  This demonstrates the insidious impact of political correctness in medicine these days. 

Reports of narcolepsy in Sweden
...concern children aged between 12-16 years who developed symptoms compatible with narcolepsy, a chronic sleeping disorder, that occurred one to two months after vaccination against the H1N1 pandemic.
The (Swedish) Medical Products Agency said it was in contact with European Union member states for information on any similar reports in other countries.
Narcolepsy is a serious condition: suddenly falling asleep without warning leads to many accidental deaths, especially in children and young adults.  There is no known cure.

This season's flu vaccine

The vaccine linked to seizures in children in Australia, and halted for small children in the UK and Australia, is this year's flu vaccine.  It contains the swine flu antigen plus other components.  It is not yet known how the seizure problem relates to the swine flu component, nor whether this season's vaccine may cause narcolepsy. 

However,  CDC is crowing about the fact the vaccine is already on pharmacy shelves and CDC has recommended it for everyone over 6 months old.   Outside a pandemic, flu is not expected to occur in the US until December at the earliest.  CDC appears to want us vaccinated before information on the vaccine's risks emerges.  CDC ordered 160 million doses made, expanded the target group of vaccinees to include the entire country, and now CDC needs to ensure those vaccines are injected, not rejected (like last year).

The larger point is not whether this vaccine causes narcolepsy.  Different vaccines have caused different side effects, and usually a variety of side effects may occur in a minority of recipients after any vaccination.

The point is that if you don't look for them, you will miss the side effects.  With 100 times the vaccinated population of Finland, why has the USA's CDC failed to identify any serious potential side effects? Why hasn't it held off vaccinations pending ongoing research in at least the US, UK, Australia, Finland and Sweden?

All public health programs need to have reliable data on hand before new vaccines or other public health strategies are used on a mass basis.  Every intervention entails potential benefits, risks and costs.  How significant is the expected benefit?  Does it justify the cost?  What are the risks, what is the incidence of side effects, and on balance, does the proposed intervention provide a significant net benefit commensurate with its cost?  Until US public health policy makers get back to these basics, individuals will have to scrutinize new programs for themselves to determine whether they make sense.

Why are we funding CDC when instead of providing us useful information, CDC prefers to muddy the water in ways harmful to our health and pocketbook?  CDC's 10 billion dollar budget could perhaps be better spent inspecting our food supply.
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