Vaccine months away, but is it safe?
Within the last month, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of patients – especially children – treated for flu-like symptoms at the St. Charles Community Health Center, says medical director Kevin Joseph.
“Our pediatrics department treats patients 20 years and younger,” he said. “But we are seeing the flu virus mainly in children ages 12 and younger.”
However, the SCCHC can’t specifically diagnose a patient with H1N1 because they are not able to send flu samples to the state’s lab for testing.
“State officials have specified certain Region 3 sites that can send any flu sample in for testing. We are not one of those sites,” Joseph said. “But because the treatment for the regular flu and H1N1 is identical, we are able to treat our patients accordingly.”
Last Tuesday, nearly 1,000 students were absent from area schools. That number was down to 800 on Monday.
“Once again, we can’t comment on whether all of these absences were flu related,” said Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard, the public information director for the school system. “But the fact that we are seeing less children missing school this week is a good sign.”
Cancienne-Touchard says that within a ten-day period, from Aug. 18 to Aug. 28, 310 students were sent home from school because of cold or flu-like symptoms.
“We are still recommending that parents keep their children home from school if they are sick, especially with fever,” she added.
That avoidance is key since the H1N1 vaccine is still months away.
By November, the United States will have only half the doses of H1N1 vaccine than originally predicted, officials from the Department of Health and Hospitals now say.
So what does this mean for St. Charles Parish?
“As of right now, we do not have a vaccine for the H1N1 flu because it is still being developed,” Joseph said. “However, as soon as one is available we will be able to vaccinate our patients.”
There is always an asterisk next to the prediction of 160 million swine flu doses by November. That’s because vaccine production is a multi-step process in which a lot can go wrong.
According to WebMD.com, here are the delays that are preventing the United States from getting the full amount of already-contracted vaccines:
– Four of the five manufacturers providing the vaccine to the United States took longer than expected to produce the vaccine’s key ingredient.
– One of the five manufacturers is still finishing up production of a seasonal flu vaccine, which must be completed before switching to H1N1 vaccine production.
– It has taken longer than expected to develop potency tests for H1N1.
– One of the manufacturers, Australia’s CSL, won’t be sending the vaccines until it has fulfilled demand in Australia, where flu season is in full swing.
When available, the H1N1 vaccine will consist of two shots that must be administered 30 days apart, and the Center for Disease Control is recommending that interested patients get both the regular and H1N1 flu vaccines.
“As a medical facility, we are following what the CDC is recommending,” added Joseph. “We currently have flu shots available and will administer the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it is ready.”
Many wonder how many H1N1 vaccines will be available in the area and who will get it first. Joseph said that high-risk individuals, such as pregnant women, young children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, should be first in line.
However, some doctors and other healthcare professionals say the vaccine could be dangerous. Dr. John Palermo, brother of Fr. Joseph Palermo of Holy Family Catholic Church in Luling, says that vaccines can cause more bad than good.
“The No. 1 thing people need to be concerned with is the fact that this vaccine is being rushed to market,” he said. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve had an H1N1 outbreak, but is seems to have created a pressing need for pharmaceutical companies to develop something quickly to make people feel safer.”
Although clinical trials have been conducted in order to test the vaccine’s usefulness and possible side effects, Palermo stands firm with his beliefs.
“Many vaccinations contain mercury which is toxic to the human body,” he said. “In my experience, I have seen vaccine-injured patients that have developed neurological disorders because of a vaccine.
“For example, many believe that the vaccine promised to ward off measles, mumps and rubella has a direct link with the development of autism. And the same can be said with the hepatitis vaccine that has been associated with diabetes and juvenile diabetes.”
A nourishing diet rich in vitamin C, fruits and vegetables is Palermo’s recipe for a healthy immune system – one that can combat viruses and other illnesses.
“We need to stop eating so many processed and enriched foods and choose more natural options that include plenty of fruits and vegetables,” he said. “Also, daily intake of vitamin C is important to maintain good health.”
Palermo suggests that adults take one, 1,000-milligram dose of vitamin C once or twice a day, increasing the dose to three or four times a day if flu-like symptoms occur.
For children, Palermo says that vitamin C should be administered based on the child’s weight – 10 milligrams per pound per day – and increased to two or three doses if the child begins exhibiting signs of illness.
“We’re not seeing many complications with those being diagnosed with the flu,” added Palermo. “Approximately 95 percent recover. It’s those with already-compromised immune systems that are at a higher risk.”
In the meantime, Joseph recommends that people practice good hygiene in order to prevent the transmission of any flu-like virus.
“We urge patients to cover their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing, keep surfaces clean and wash their hands frequently,” he said.