October 8, 1999
Flu Vaccine: Stay Out of My Womb!
Commentary by Dawn Richardson
Pregnant women everywhere know the feeling of making it to the milestone of their second trimester. For most, queasiness starts to subside, energy returns in spurts, and of course there is that indescribable feeling of becoming aware of your developing baby's movements.
You've altered your diet, exercised, stayed away from over the counter medications, your true hair color is revealing itself, and that wonderful bottle of wine with the Surgeon General's warning will continue stay buried in the back of the refrigerator awaiting the skinnier days ahead.
You ask yourself, "Is there anything more that I can do for me and my baby during the remainder of my pregnancy?" Well, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the federal government's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) there is - get the flu vaccine before this year's flu season hits. According to the CDC and ACIP, it was estimated that an average of 1 to 2 hospitalizations among pregnant women could be prevented for every 1,000 pregnant women immunized. (Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of ACIP. MMWR - May 1, 1998; 47)
My initial pregnant maternally protective hormonal response to this was utter disbelief. How could a biological pharmaceutical product be recommended for routine use for all healthy second and third trimester pregnant women? As I looked into this further, I became outraged and inspired to share the truth with pregnant women so they could make up their own minds. Here is what I found.
There are four drug manufacturers for this year's flu vaccine. The product package inserts published by the manufacturers state the disclaimer that "Animal reproduction studies have not been conducted with influenza virus vaccine. It is also not known whether influenza virus vaccine can cause fetal harm when administered to a pregnant woman...Although animal reproductive studies have not been conducted, the prescribing health-care provider should be aware of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices...The ACIP states that, if used during pregnancy, administration of influenza virus vaccine after 14 weeks of gestation may be preferable to avoid coincidental association of the vaccine with early pregnancy loss..."
Additional reading and phone calls to the manufacturers confirmed that all four flu vaccines contain thimerosal, a mercury derivative preservative banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in over-the-counter (OTC) drug preparations because of questions over safety. (Federal Register: April 22, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 77)][Page 19799-19802].
On July 7, 1999, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the United States Public Health Service (PHS) issued a joint statement that because of the "neuro-developmental effects posed by exposure to thimerosal", "thimerosal-containing vaccines should be removed as soon as possible." The PHS and AAP recognized that because of thimerosal in vaccines, some children would be exposed to "a cumulative level of mercury over the first six months of life that exceeds one of the federal guidelines on methyl mercury." Hospitals around the country responded this summer by halting the administration of the thimerosal containing vaccine for hepatitis B at birth, deferring vaccination until the baby is older and more developed. What about my beloved little baby that isn't even developed enough to live outside the womb yet?
A quick internet search showed that even the CDC, in a revealing self-contradiction at another location, posted: "Q. Who is most vulnerable to mercury? A. Two groups are most vulnerable to methyl mercury: the fetus and children ages 14 and younger." (http://www.cdc.gov/nip/Q&A/genqa/Thimerosal.htm) More searching on the National Library of Medicine site almost effortlessly produced hundreds of articles and studies in medical and scientific journals clearly documenting the damaging effects of prenatal exposure to mercury. The results of one recent study published in the August 1, 1999 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology stated that "the greatest susceptibility to methylmercury neurotoxicity occurs during late gestation, while early postnatal vulnerability is less" which is the precise point in time that ACIP and the CDC is recommending we get the shot.
I then decided to call the CDC's Influenza Division myself, as a pregnant mother baffled by this scientifically unfounded and potentially unsafe recommendation. Maybe I was missing something that an "expert" could reveal for me. I was told that there was no scientific proof that the flu vaccine caused fetal harm. Well of course not, the manufacturers are right up front when they state that this hasn't been studied - isn't that convenient. I was also told that the CDC had no intention to change the recommendation for pregnant women because of thimerosal. The doctor blamed the recent concerns on "politics" rather than science. What a shame.
Even though the CDC does claim that a single study of a small number of pregnant women have demonstrated no adverse fetal effects associated with influenza vaccine; they continue and say, "however, more data are needed." Maybe this scientifically unsubstantiated recommendation is how the CDC plans on getting that data. So much for the Nazi war criminal trials at Nuremberg outlawing human experimentation without informed consent.
While I would absolutely hate to be one of the 1 in 1000 pregnant women needing to go to the hospital for the flu this winter, at this point, I feel far more threatened by the public health bureaucrats recklessly willing to experiment on me and my unborn child with a flu vaccine not proven safe for my baby.
"Study: Giving Flu Vaccine Doesn't Save Money"
Tuesday October 3 3:16 PM ET
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
for full article
...``Vaccination of healthy adults may not provide overall economic benefit, even in a well-paid population,'' Dr. Carolyn Buxton Bridges of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (news - web sites) (CDC) told reporters.
...During the 1997-1998 flu season, the first of the study, the vaccine did not match well with the flu virus that was going around and no benefit was found to vaccination.
...``But because influenza rates were low and the (resulting) costs were low, the average cost of vaccine ... in the vaccine group was $11.32 greater than the average cost of illness alone in the placebo group,'' Bridges said. ``Vaccination of this population did not result in a net cost saving from a societal perspective.'' The vaccine was estimated to have cost $10, while employee time was estimated, based on the average hourly wage at Ford, to be worth $29.39 per hour. The average cost of getting a shot was estimated to be $24.70.
Wednesday October 4 1:12 PM ET
Flu Shots Cut Misery, But Not Costs
By Amy Norton
for full article
"NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Employers who offer workers flu vaccines in the hopes of cutting sick days may not be saving money after all, new research suggests.
Experts agree that people at risk of flu complications, such as the elderly and the chronically ill, should get vaccinated every year. For healthy younger adults, vaccination is more about avoiding a few days of misery than preventing a serious health threat. And in terms of dollars, researchers have found, it is not a cost-effective choice..."