Government Vouches for Swine Flu Vaccine, but Parents Remain Skeptical

October 10, 2009 08:00 AM
by Anita Gutierrez-Folch
Even though the new swine flu vaccine is now available in most U.S. states, many parents are not sure that vaccination would be a safe option for their children.

Swine Flu Vaccine Deemed Safe

Although the long-awaited swine flu vaccine is now available in hospitals and other health care facilities around the country, a poll conducted by the Associated Press revealed that “more than a third of parents don't want their kids vaccinated,” Mike Stobbe reported for the AP.

So far, clinical trials and tests have revealed the H1N1 vaccine to be perfectly safe, not presenting “any side effects more worrisome than the mild variety associated with annual flu immunizations,” Stephen Smith reports for The Boston Globe. According to Smith, the vaccine has been fabricated in the same way as other seasonal vaccines.

Regardless of these assurances, the AP poll discovered that “38 percent of parents said they were unlikely to give permission for their kids to be vaccinated at school,” Stobbe reports. For many parents, the newness of the vaccine has created concern about potential side effects. Jackie Shea, mother of a 5-year-old in Connecticut, expressed her apprehension about the H1N1 vaccine for her son. “I will not be first in line in October to get him vaccinated,” she told the AP in September. “We're talking about putting an unknown into him. I can't do that.”

Other parents, on the other hand, are nonchalant about the dangers of the swine flu strain itself, arguing that it shouldn’t be more hazardous that the regular seasonal flu, the AP notes.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has been calling out to parents to vaccinate their children, vouching for the safety of the vaccine. “We know it's safe and secure,” the AP quotes her as saying. Sebelius stressed the fact that the H1N1 virus targets young people that have no natural immunity against the virus, and that interact in settings such as classrooms and day-care centers where transmission is easy. “We strongly urge parents to take precautionary steps. Flu kills every year ... and we've got a great vaccine to deal with it,” she told the AP.

Reaction: Government support of H1N1 vaccine met with skepticism

The fact that the government has vouched for the swine flu vaccine hasn’t succeeded in assuring everyone. Many parents are concerned about the long-term effects of the vaccine.

For many, the H1N1 incident this year has been reminiscent of the 1976 swine flu outbreak among soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. At the time, the government issued a national vaccination drive that wound up causing serious complications in hundreds of people: Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare neurological complication, was found in those who had received the vaccination. After a few months, the vaccination program was halted.

Related Topic: Government criticized for air quality assurances after 9/11

In the weeks after the 9/11 attacks on New York City, Christine Whitman, the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, declared that the “air in Lower Manhattan was safe in the days immediately after the attack,” Anthony DePalma reported for The New York Times in 2007. At a Congressional hearing in June 2007, Whitman “repeatedly denied” that her comments were meant to “play down health risks” or that the Bush administration “had improperly influenced statements she made” immediately after 9/11, DePalma wrote.

Defending her 2001 statements, Whitman specified that she was addressing Lower Manhattan residents rather than ground zero workers, and noted that the government agency did issue “repeated warnings to workers on the debris pile to wear protective equipment,” DePalma reported.

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