What’s in your H1N1 flu vaccine?

Chris Shaw wasn’t always skeptical about vaccines. The neuroscientist at the University of British Columbia had his teenage son vaccinated with most of the recommended shots. But then he started studying some of the ingredients commonly found in vaccines.

What he discovered caused him to go cold turkey on all shots for his six-year-old daughter. And that includes the vaccine for the H1N1 flu.

“I am not convinced H1N1 is sufficiently hazardous to most people to risk the potential downside of the vaccine,” Shaw said over the phone from his office in the research pavilion at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.

Shaw isn’t an easily dismissed vaccine conspiracy theorist. He is a leading expert on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and Parkinson’s disease. While investigating unusually high rates of ALS and other neurological disorders among veterans who have Gulf War syndrome, he found evidence that the cause may have been aluminum salt, an ingredient in the cocktail of vaccines given to soldiers before deployment.

Although aluminum salt isn’t present in the H1N1 vaccine, Shaw’s discovery made him concerned about other vaccines, including the swine-flu shot. He isn’t alone in his thoughts.

Despite a full frontal assault of news about the dangers of the flu and the importance of vaccination, a survey in late October revealed that only 36 percent of Canadians said they would get the shot. Lack of trust in the vaccine was cited as the main reason for vaccine opposition. Another poll in November found that 65 percent of Canadians believe the media has overreacted to the threat of swine flu.

Even many health workers aren’t convinced. In two separate surveys, in the U.K. (Pulse) and Hong Kong (British Medical Journal), published in August, half of health-care professionals said they didn’t intend to get the vaccine.

Canadian health officials and some newspaper columnists have reacted by accusing vaccine opponents of being conspiracy mongers or just plain irresponsible.

Who is right? Is the cure really worse than the disease? Let’s look at some numbers.

First, the disease. Swine flu had killed 161 Canadians as of November 12. That works out to one death per 200,000 Canadians in the past six-and-a-half months. Over the same period of time, major cardiovascular diseases typically claim 240 times more Canadian lives (about 39,000), cancer claims 230 times more (37,000 deaths), pneumonia kills 18 times more (2,800), and accidental falls claim eight times more (1,260), according to calculations based on 2005 Statistics Canada figures.

H1N1 has about the same death rate as hernias. But we don’t see scary front-page headlines for months on end about hernias, pneumonia, or falling down.

“It’s really not causing—and is not going to cause and nowhere has caused—significant levels of illness or death,” Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health, told the CBC on November 12.

Schabas said H1N1 “has ultimately turned out to be, from a pandemic perspective, a dud”.

What about the vaccine? Is it safe? Despite the onslaught of confident pronouncements from health officials and doctors, Shaw says he hasn’t seen enough information on the safety of the vaccine. “If the science were there, we could make a rational decision. But it’s a coin toss.”

Looking for answers, Shaw turned to the 24-page product-information leaflet on the vaccine released by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline. Health Canada used this document in approving the shot.

The leaflet leaves Shaw cold. “You couldn’t turn this in as a master’s thesis anywhere I know of and get a passing grade,” he said, calling the leaflet a “shocking document”.

Shaw said the material lacks basic information. For example, there is no safety data at all for several groups of people—pregnant women, people aged over 60, kids aged 10 to 17, and children under three. For kids three to nine years old, there is only “very limited” data.

Comments (166) Add New Comment
Lorraine
I'm really happy I didn't get the vaccine
even tho' I'm well over 65 yrs
I sure won't get it now, had me druthers anyway and
didn't intend to get the vaccine.

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DroneLove
Great article, very refreshing to see this kind of thing in the news!
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RodSmelser
Is this the same Dr Chris Shaw who's an Olympics critic?
Rod Smelser
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DarklyDreaming
Finally! An article that isn't so "pro-vaccine" - refreshing and insightful. Thank you! I think I'l hold off on vaccinating my children and myself - I was always leery, and for good reason, it seems.
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Malicia
Brilliant! Thanks to The Straight for having the cahones to do this story. Thank you for asking the right questions from a pertinent and objective source. Thank you Dr. Shaw for caring enough to do the work and for speaking up. I sincerely hope you continue to investigate vaccines and their connection to increasing numbers of serious health problems.
My teen aged son and I are in "high risk" categories and I was worried that my choice in not getting the shots was a bad one. We both work in client services and so far we are in better health than the people around us who had the shot and are suffering from "colds." I attribute this to our history in making significant choices in our diets and obsessive hand washing.
When will we stand up and demand our governments to clamp down on drug companies? I shudder when I think about where this virus began.
And don't even get me started about the irresponsibility of mainstream media and the hype that both the drug companies and the government relied upon to grease this frenzied wheel for them. I only hope their fervor will be as strong when they report on the suffering this vaccine could create.
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turb0chrg
Yup, Chris also brought forward another perspective about the Olympics in his book "Five Ring Circus".
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IMPRESSED
That so many Canadians are not excepting the media hype. There is hope yet for us. Who profits from the sale of this vaccine? There has been no long term study on the effect of this drug on the human immune system, I have encorage many others to do their research first before taking this shot. I for one have not bought into the hype.

Image if we had that media hype to help underdeveloped nations get access to the much needed drugs(tested) that is so needed? Good on the GS for printing this story!
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2ndLook
While many things Dr. Shaw brings up are interesting and worthy of closer investigation, I find some of the statistics in this article misleading. H1N1 had killed 'only' 161 people as of the 12th, true, but in the week since then that number has increased to 250.

There were as many new deaths just this past week as there were total deaths in the first six months of surveillance.

And the number of new deaths has roughly doubled every week for the past month - if this keeps up, there will be more than 11,000 dead from H1N1 by the end of December.

Is that going to happen? Probably not. (I certainly hope not!) If this flu follows normal flu trends it will peak sometime in the next week or so, stabilize for a few weeks, and then start to decline leaving us with possibly as few as 600 dead (1 in 55,000 or so) by the end of the year. Still a small number, certainly, but several times higher than the 161 Mr. Roslin seems to be implying is a typical 6-month death toll for this strain.

And since H1N1 is already bucking a lot of the normal flu trends (active earlier in the year, killing young, healthy people, etc.), it's a little soon to start forecasting how it's all going to play out.
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Lambert O H Curzon
H1N1 shot, the Doctors are saying my side effects are a coincidence and not related to my shot. Huge blister on lower lip extending towards chin, also rectal bleeding, bruising on my arms, constant runny nose and congestion. All this within less than 16 hours of the shot.
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FreeDee
Bravo to the Straight for some actual journalism! Canadians have waited far too long for their mainstream media to tell them the unvarnished truth, whatever it may be. We deserve to know what we're dealing with, including where the money went. We deserve to have our questions answered with candor, fully and honestly. We deserve, and HAVE THE RIGHT TO, government which, after WE elect it, and while WE are paying for it, will respect us enough not to treat us like dumb livestock. Seems the "herd immunity" they were pushing on us was more a descriptor of what they think of us than a means to keep us healthy.
On our site, www.canadiansforhealthfreedom.org, we have a page where Canadian vaccine victims can report what has happened to them, and other Canadians can decide for themselves what risks, and what benefits, accrue with the H1N1 vaccine.
Thank you for allowing us herd people the opportunity to think for ourselves!
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WJC847
Finally, a reporter who has made the effort to critically probe the H1N1 vaccine... Lambert, you're right... vaccine reactions are frequently denied as "coincidental".. and since there are no LONG-TERM follow up studies, any auto-immune disorders that could show up years from now will rarely be questioned as being possibly vaccine related. Please consider posting your reaction at canadiansforhealthfreedom.org ...

Re. grossly inflated stats, google the article by CBS News - Oct. 21st 'Swine Flu Overestimated' ... a real eye-opener that official state lab results prior to when lab testing was stopped showed only a tiny % of suspected H1N1 cases actually tested positive... Even allowing let's say for a huge jump in rates since then, the stats don't come remotely close to what's being reported. Bear in mind, that many cases - even deaths - labelled as being caused by H1N1 have NOT actually been verified by lab tests. Epidemiologist, Dr. Tom Jefferson of the respected Cochrane independent scientific review has blasted shoddy flu stat reporting and notes that there are over 200 viruses than can cause flu-LIKE symptoms, and while these may not all be equally circulating, the CBS graph (lower in the article) makes it disturbingly clear that a lot of what is labelled H1N1 or even the seasonal flu, do not actually check out for such when put to the test.
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Bea
Good to find an honest review of vaccines. Dr Chris Shaw really knows what he is talking about. Thank you Georgia Straight for printing it like it is.
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TheParadigmShift
Thank you Georgia Straight for printing an article that isn't blatant fear mongering propaganda funded by the advertising dollars of the big pharmaceutical companies like the other "news" outlets do.
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Joseph
If someone gets sick before taking the jab, the pharmaceutical advocates are quick to blame the flu. If someone gets sick after taking the jab, they say it's just a coincidence.

The best reason not to take this poison may be this: Where's the pandemic? This non-event is turning out to be reminiscent of the anthrax scare that followed 911. The difference today is that an administrative system is been erected to apply doses on a mass scale.

I've never taken a flu shot in my life, nor have my kids--nor are we planning to, no matter how much the CDC and WHO ramp up the fear level.

It's all about profits. Period.
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Dina
There are always going to be those people who like to go against the grain! This is one of them. I got my son vaccinated and I will get it for myself when it is released. As I read through this article I heard alot of "my opinion" and "may have been a cause", that is NOT FACT, sorry people! Also to compare a virus to a hernia, laughable!
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Jenny
So great to see some honest information. Something of great concern is the fact that reports from Ukraine indicate a new mutated virus similar to the plague with completely different symptoms than H1N1. This has been completely blacked out through our mainstream media. Info on this is only available through the internet. WHY the silence if not because they are covering this up intentionally, and WHO is once again hiding the truth by their obviously incorrect statements. Check out this blog which contains numerous links on this subject.
http://ukraineplague.blogspot.com
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Syncrochef
Rod Smelser says:
"Is this the same Dr Chris Shaw who's an Olympics critic?"
What the flip would Dr. Shaw's opposition to the olympics have to do with his knowledge about this topic?

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Audrey
I am glad a knowledgeable health care provider sent me this link. WIthout FULL and COMPLETE information too many of the masses just follow and don't ask appropriate questions. Why should folks just inject unknown, toxic substances in to their body without trying to get themselves to optimal health through great nutrition, positive thinking and daily excercise (I mean just going for a walk!). The best way to beat any flu and cold is to keep your immune system supported. Daily Vitamin D, C and Zinc will go a long way to keeping you healthy!
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Balance
Hi there, As a post-grad steeped in the how-to's of scientific reasoning, it is always interesting to note when things co-occur, such as a shot and a symptom. However, unless all the other things co-occuring are considered, such as allergies, preexisting conditions, exposure to other micororganisms, no singular causation can be safely assumed. It is a fundamental law of scientific reasoning that just because things happen at the same time doesn't mean that they are necessarily causally linked. Just because someone had breakfast and then died of a heart attack, does not mean that the breakfast caused it. More examination would have to be done and a variety of other co-occurances considered. It is important to take a balanced perspective on both sides of the vaccine fence. And certainly, more research into causal links, as identified by co-occurances, needs to be done by those who are fundamentally unbiased, ie with no gain in the outcome either way. Without question, the effects of the H1N1 virus can not be undermined either and those also need to be considered and studied further. Unfortunately, in a pandemic situation (yes it is not as bad as they thought it would be, but hindsight is always 20:20) measures had to be taken and fast. Can you imagine how much flack there would be if they hadn't developed a vaccine quickly? You would be saying something completely different if the pandemic had panned out the way that was predicted last Spring. People would pick the less of two evils, and that would have been the vaccine, should more fatalities be occuring now. BTW I had the H1N1 and I am a healthy person. I was symptomatic for a month and a half. If I had have had a choice between losing so much time and suffering the symptoms, and a vaccine which had a good possibility of stopping the disease, I would have taken the latter, (AND I would have eaten my fill of tuna too, ;) ) That's the part that may be missing too, not only consideration of proven links versus cooincidences, but also that H1N1 is a harsh virus to have to fight without medical intervention. Time will tell whether or not the vaccine is worth the risk that the H1N1 brings and that is everyones' individual priviledge to decide for themselves. Fear mongering on either side of the vaccine controversy does nothing to ensure we all stay healthy. Ranting needs to be replaced with positive solutioning and an eye to deliberate research whose goal is purely for our collective health.
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Art
yup what a brilliant article , makes me regret getting polio and smallpox shots when I was a kid. I guess they weren't neededaccording to Shaw....am off to join the flat earth society and then to read a book on how the moonlanding was a hollywood hoax...it is great having this new wisdom propagated by the straight....
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