In April, it all started in Mexico – the emergence of the H1N1 virus, the agent that causes swine flu. Since then, nearly 3,000 infections and more than 20 deaths have been reported in Florida.
The U.S. is now distributing the much-anticipated H1N1 flu vaccine, but surprisingly, the general public is not accepting it because of safety concerns.
A Consumer Reports poll found that two-thirds of parents are planning to delay or skip getting the vaccine for their children. A poll by the Harvard School of Public Health shows only 40 percent of Americans say they are absolutely sure they will get vaccinated, while 41 percent will not.
The public should have faith in officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who say the vaccines are safe and will prevent outbreaks.
Some worry the vaccine was not tested enough, while others fear flu vaccines in general. It only took six months to develop this vaccine, which could mean more risk and side effects for those who take it.
“I think many of the concerns by parents are based on the perception that this vaccine has been rushed into production and may not be safe,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the CDC, in a press release. “And we understand parents’ concerns – they want what is best for their children. We often tell people the best antidote for fear is information. And we ask them to really seek out sound and reliable information from sources they trust.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the St. Louis University Center for Vaccine Development on the safety concerns of the H1N1 flu vaccine. She said the shot was made “the same way we make seasonal flu vaccine.”
She also confirmed the vaccine has gone through the development process, which included clinical trials through the National Institute of Health and private manufacturers.
Those concerned say they do not want to be the guinea pigs for the vaccine, and there are reports that mercury preservative could possibly be in the vaccine. Although no studies have proven this, mercury has been connected to autism.
The CDC has addressed the concerns, saying that mercury preservation poses no risk to pregnant women and fetuses. Still, according to CNN, private manufacturers are producing mercury-free H1N1 flu vaccines to distill any concerns.
The CDC has published a list of groups that should get the swine flu right away, as they are considered “high risk.” They include pregnant women; people who are around infants under 6 months old; health care personnel; persons aged 6 months to 24 years; and persons 24-65 years old who have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable.
With the number of reports of swine flu infections rising every day, it is clear the vaccine is the only way out of this pandemic. People need to make sure they protect themselves and their families by getting it as soon as possible.
Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.