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Swine flu vaccine

The swine flu has swept the world, caused quarantines of people in some countries, and generally been the most covered news story of the year outside of Michael Jackson’s death or Twilight romance gossip.  Fear has played a big role in the public’s interest in swine flu and its progression, and the media has played off of the fears very well to get more people to tune in.  An understanding of swine flu would go far to help the public base decisions and opinions on the disease on a more rational basis instead of having fear as a guide.

The swine flu reacts essentially the same as the common flu.  The symptoms are the same, as are the treatments.  The difference between the two is how the body’s immune system identifies the intruder.  Normal flu vaccine’s use dead flu cells to create an immune system response that can quickly identify an intruder and produce anti-bodies to combat it.  Without the first response and identification, the body reacts slowly to the disease, allowing a virus to set in and attack.

The swine flu does not trigger the immune system response like normal influenza does, bypassing vaccines already in place and allowing the symptoms to set in.  Older populations seemed resistant to the strain, having had some immune system response to the disease before swine flu was essentially removed from the human population in modern medicine.  Those most susceptible are actually younger adults and healthy children due to lack of antibodies.

So the medical community has rushed to find a cure or a vaccine to help slow the spread of the disease and prevent a future widespread outbreak.  

The problem with rushing a vaccine is that much of the testing to see if the vaccine works or is even safe is largely bypassed for the sake of “public well-being.”  

Normally, drugs can potentially spend years in the trial phase before reaching approval.  By rushing and overlooking many areas normally scrutinized, and by bending to the public fear-fueled outcry for a response from the FDA, vaccine manufacturer’s have been given the green light for testing a relatively unproven and unknown chemical in human volunteers.

Volunteers are being asked for from virtually every demographic of the country, from babies to geriatrics.  Unfortunately, when looking at the geriatric population first, virtually all of this country has a medication problem.  Older Americans are the most medicated group of individuals in the world, taking different drugs for blood pressure, cholesterol, thyroid, hormone replacement, various ailments, degenerative conditions as well as recreational drugs like Viagra and Cialis.  

Several drugs can compromise immune system function, which makes testing a vaccine on these people questionable at best, and many of those on drugs that do affect immune function don’t even know it.  Complete medical histories are crucial for effectively testing any new drug or vaccine, and it would be astonishing if any of the elderly are able to give a complete history from all of their doctors.

Children are another story, especially babies.  Many people have been quarantined for suspected H1N1 swine influenza, and turned out to have the normal human strain.  Babies can get sick, especially if they are given formula instead of breast milk.  Babies on formula are deprived of the mother’s antibodies that fight infection for the first six months of a child’s life.  

How can one discern whether or not a child being tested is either experiencing swine flu symptoms or the cold?

If the rush for a vaccine goes badly, the media is simply to blame for stoking the flames of public fear, turning a bad problem into a worse one.