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Mothering › Health Articles › If You’re Pregnant, The Swine Flu Vaccine May Not Be Safe

If You’re Pregnant, The Swine Flu Vaccine May Not Be Safe

ConfusedPregnantWomanThe Washington Post reported in early October that 28 pregnant women have died of the swine flu and the CDC specifies that pregnant women are at higher risk of death if they catch the swine flu, especially in the third trimester. An article in the November 3, 2009 British newspaper, the Telegraph, reiterates that pregnant women are at a proportionately high risk of having severe health problems from the swine flu.

My father-in-law, who reads these kinds of mainstream newspapers and Web sites, has been so disturbed by the increased risk to pregnant women that he’s been calling my husband to make sure I’m okay.

“I got my swine flu shot today,” he told James. “Jennifer going to get one?”

The answer is no. I’m one of the pregnant women criticized in articles like this one from from WebMD who are wary of the swine flu vaccine and have decided not to get the shot.

Citing a new survey that shows that only one in four pregnant women plan to get vaccinated against H1N1, this WebMD article laments that so many pregnant women have “confusion” about the risks of the vaccine and then dismisses the concern that the vaccine might cause adverse reactions, claiming that “… researchers say the H1N1 vaccine is made the same way as the seasonal flu shot and has been found in clinical studies to be safe and effective at producing an immune response in healthy adults.”

But there are several compelling reasons why pregnant women should not run to the nearest pharmacy and get vaccinated.

Just ask Vicky Debold, an RN with a Ph.D. in Public Health who is also the Director of Research and Patient Safety at the National Vaccine Information Center. DeBold believes pregnant women should be wary about the swine flu vaccine, though when she wrote a response to a pro-vaccine op-ed by Paul Offit (a vocal spokesperson in favor of vaccines who also developed and co-owns the patent on one of the newest vaccines mandated on the CDC schedule for children), the New York Times did not publish it.

Bottom line: Debold argues that there is not enough information about the effect of the vaccine on pregnant women and their fetuses for anyone to claim that it is safe.

1) The vaccine has not been adequately tested on pregnant women: The NIH’s H1N1 pregnancy trial began less than two months ago (in September) and includes only 120 women. We have no results from this trial to date but, according to Debold, we do know that an earlier 1997-2002 seasonal influenza vaccine study of over 49,000 pregnant women showed that vaccination did not reduce influenza-related hospital admissions or doctor visits. At the same time, the influenza vaccine package inserts explain that animal reproductive tests have not been conducted on the vaccine and the potential harm to fetuses is unknown.

2) The H1N1 vaccine contains thimerosal, a mercury compound known to be a fetal toxin: There are two versions of the vaccine, one that contains 25 mcg of thimerosal and one that does not. Although pregnant women can request the thimerosal-free vaccine, it is harder to find. If you do not specifically ask to be given the vaccine without thimerosal, chances are you will be injecting a known neurotoxin into your blood stream.

3) There is no real data about the evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine: Risk assessment is a tricky business. Some people—like me—believe we should take the risk of contracting a wild virus found in human populations over the risk of potential damage done by a pharmaceutical product that makes money for big business and doctors. Other people—most of American society—believe the opposite. But I wonder why anyone would choose to be injected with a pharmaceutical product that has not been adequately tested and very well may not work.

4) Health officials are assuming that the H1N1 vaccine is “as safe as the seasonal flu vaccine,” but this assumption may simply be wrong: The H1N1 virus is behaving differently than the usual seasonal flu viruses, so we cannot assume that the H1N1 vaccine will provoke the same reactions in different people as the seasonal flu vaccine. Debold isn’t buying this unsubstantiated assumption. I’m not either.

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Tags: pregnancy, safety of vaccines, swine flu vaccine


Comments (16)

You really are caught between a rock and a hard place on this question. I don't think there's any good answer -- taking reasonable precautions and skipping a vaccination seems like an informed decision to me. It really is the devil you know versus the devil you don't. .-= Katherine´s last blog ..The Boss and Me (Or the Mom and the Magic) =-.
This is really a loaded issue. I can see why a lot of pregnant women are opting out of the H1N1 vaccine. Your last point, about the virus acting differently than the seasonal flu virus,really gave me pause. If I were pregnant right now, I think I'd opt out and be super-aware of taking precautions to protect myself from contracting any flu.
I'd like to know why they keep putting thimerosal in vaccines when it is known to be a neurotoxin. Sounds like you made the right decision. I will forward this post to my daughter who just got married.I didn't know you can request a vaccine without thimerosal. Is that information widely known by pregnant women? Can mothers of small children also request it? .-= Alexandra´s last blog ..On the Importance of Beauty ... =-.
Yikes. I have a fear of vaccinations anyways, though I usually go through with them for the benefit to the greater good - I mean, they may be dangerous, but isn't polio moreso? I couldn't imagine making this decision while pregnant. Very scary. .-= Stephanie - Wasabimon´s last blog ..Martha Stewart’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe =-.
I totally respect your decision and I know how stressful it is to make decisions that don't just affect you. Wish the answers were clear cut, Alexandra, to answer your question, my daughter is fully vaccinated and we were able to source all of her vaccines to make sure they were thimerosal-free. We haven't gotten either flu shot yet this year though... .-= Almost Slowfood´s last blog ..Sandy Sables Cookies =-.
This is a tough call. Like Jennifer, if I were pregnant I'd opt out of the H1N1 vaccine. I agree that there just hasn't been adequate testing to determine that it's safe for a general population. But I'm glad I don't have to make that call. .-= ReadyMom´s last blog ..THE Chewiest Oatmeal Cookies =-.
I'm not sure if I am remembering this correctly, but I could swear that I was cautioned against getting a regular flu shot when I was pregnant 5 years ago. Isn't that why they don't give flu vaccinations to infants? They think something will go wrong? .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Don’t Even Think About Reading This At Work =-.
We just had a baby (Oct. 30) and were weighing the questions Jennifer writes about here. For better or worse, the birth came before we had any access to H1N1 vaccine. Mom, dad (aka me) and our nearly four-year-old have since been vaccinated for H1N1, but we ultimately never needed to know whether we thought the risks outweighed the rewards for a mother-to-be.
Tough call. I'm not getting vaccinated and I'm not pregnant. My big worry, if I were pregnant, would be the resulting high fever that comes with the flu. What effect does a high fever have on the mother-to-be and the fetus? Do we know?
Alisa, I think you are not remembering correctly...most pregnant women are advised to get a flu shot. I had one with my daughter 4 years ago and have been advised to get one this time around as well. I have several friends in the "mainstream" medical profession who find the National Vaccine Information Center to be a fringe organization, sort of like the conspiracy theorists. While I believe that it's unlikely you will get gravely ill if you contract the swine flu, there have been many reported cases of pregnant women dying, yet there have been no reported adverse effects from people who've received the h1n1 vaccine. So, I think either way you will be fine, but with the shot you will be less likely to contract the virus, infect your family and be sick for a week. I plan to get it, when it becomes available in my area.
The vaccine that is! Not the swine flu : )
This is a tough issue. There are so many factors to consider. .-= Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey´s last blog ..The 5-Question Interview: Christine Schwab =-.
What the government vaccine spokesmen haven't revealed is that both swine flu vaccines, the dramatically-named Pandemrix and Focetria, contain 'immune response booster' Squalen. On its own it provokes strong immune responses, so when found in the presence of the flu, it boosts the response. What's the problem with that? It's possible that such additives provoke auto-immune responses. The soldiers sent to the first Gulf War were given vaccines boosted with Squalen, and research into the chronic Gulf War Syndrome have found that even soldiers who were prepared but never sent to the Gulf suffer equally from the Syndrome with those who were sent, about 25% of all soldiers. Those not sent weren't exposed to depleted Uranium, so that can't be the cause. But all were dosed with Squalen-containing vaccines. I wouldn't take any vaccine containing Squalen, and certainly wouldn't want my pregnant wife taking them.
For an MD's discussion of squalene, see: http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_18900.cfm
Mothering › Health Articles › If You’re Pregnant, The Swine Flu Vaccine May Not Be Safe