Genevieve Kiger-Natural Heath Examiner
With the first shipments of H1N1 swine flu vaccine only days away, many people are concerned about the possible risks of the swine flu shots. At the top of the list of worries, is a resurgence of rumors from the 1976 swine flu vaccinations, of a rare but paralyzing condition known as Guillain-Barre syndrome. But just how much of a risk are any of these side effects?
Common Side Effects of the Swine Flu Vaccine
Because the swine flu vaccine was hurried to get out to the population, the testing done was, some claim, not nearly sufficient to look for rarer negative reactions. But, there was plenty of testing to confirm that the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine look very similar to those of the regular seasonal flu shot — which, in effect, it is virtually identical to save for the virus itself.
No deaths or extremely severe side effects were reported, in the multiple, though relatively small, studies conducted. The most common side effects were localized problems at the injection site, including tenderness, pain, redness, swelling, and bruising. There were also some more encompassing reactions reported, by less than half of those in the testing. These included headache, malaise, muscle pain, chills, nausea, fever, and vomiting. Most the these reports were mild, with a few being moderate, and less than 1 percent being severe.
The FluMist nasal spray has a higher frequency of side effects, which are often very similar, though less severe, than H1N1 symptoms itself.
Fears Rise About Risks of More Severe Side Effects of the Swine Flu Vaccine
Because rare adverse reactions are – by definition – rare, it is hard for a small test group of only several hundred people to reveal them. Thus, some may come to light only after mass vaccinations have begun.
The fear of the sometimes paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome come, as stated earlier, from the 1976 vaccinations for another strain of the swine flu. Of the 45 million people vaccinated then, some 500 cases were reported. The CDC maintains that the risk is no greater than the seasonal flu vaccine, which is no higher than one case of Guillain-Barre syndrome per million people vaccinated.
The question, of course, is: which is the greater risk? The swine flu shots, or coming down with swine flu symptoms?
Many people seem to feel the vaccine is the greater risk, with the shadow of potentially unknown side effects. But many health officials feel that the H1N1 virus poses the larger risk. For instance, one study in Chicago states that preschool aged children were being hospitalized because of the H1N1 swine flu at a rate two and a half times greater than any risk posed by Guillain-Barre syndrome.
In the end, it is up to the individual, with the help of their doctors, to decide if swine flu symptoms or the swine flu shot pose the greater risk.