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H1N1 vaccine: Victim of conflicting views.

By Muna AwwadAaNothing yet has exceeded the topic, in terms of wide public discussion, of Aoswine fluAo caused by the H1N1 virus except that of its vaccine which was internationally announced as a preventive solution to the said virus; the vaccine was recently approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) and distributed to many countries of the world including Jordan, where the total number of confirmed cases of swine flu has risen to over 2,850 with eleven deaths since June.AaNo sooner the Ministry of Health announced officially the launch of the national vaccination campaign to combat the H1N1 virus spread, than Jordanians started splitting into two different groups: One supporting the vaccine and the importance of administering it in order to reduce the risk of infection; and another rejecting the vaccine outright, following a wave of fear spread worldwide doubting its safety; yet still a third group believes in the conspiracy theory saying that the whole H1N1pandemic and its vaccine story was planned for certain reasons.AaIt was on Tuesday November 17 that Jordan launched the first phase of a nationwide optional anti-H1N1virus (swine flu) vaccination campaign; the campaign kicked off at Prince Hamza Hospital in Amman by MoH Secretary General, Daifallah Lozi, who himself and a number of officials and doctors were the first to receive the shots to encourage other people to take the inoculants.AaAoI believe that we in Jordan should at least wait before using the H1N1 vaccine until one year has passed for studying the disease itself and detecting any side effects of its vaccine; the vaccine has not been duly experimented and we never know what it might bring,Ao Dr Abdel Hamid Qudah, an expert in bacterial diseases and vaccines, said to The Star. AoThe vaccine has not taken enough time under study and a large percentage of international doctors have decided not to use it in the meantime.AoAaHowever, as the numbers of swine flu cases in Jordan increase in an unprecedented way, those who support receiving the vaccine believe that it is a bit risky to imagine unrealistic possibilities while the country is anxious to put an end to the fast spread of the disease.AaHead of MoH Infectious Disease Control Directorate, Bassam Hijjawi, who assured that the citizensAAE positive response to having the vaccine reached 50% and that no side effects have yet been proven other than simple ones that disappear within 48 hours, said, AoWe should rather pay more attention to the number of infections and death cases in real life in order to reduce them instead of discussing illusions; all vaccines have side effects, why question this vaccine in particular?Ao AaAssuring that the ministry has designated special registration of those vaccinated to keep them under observation and report any potential side effects, Hijjawi added, AoThere are many sides watching and monitoring the issue; therefore, I urge citizens to compare the advantages of getting the vaccine with the disadvantages of avoiding it; many vaccines were immediately withdrawn from the market when proved to be dangerous, and MoH is carefully following the issue.AoAaPresident of the Jordan Medical Association, Dr Ahmad Armouti, who himself received the vaccine, assured to The Star that the fear is not based on solid arguments. AoI myself have received the vaccine which shows my trust that everything will be ok; since this vaccine is still new, no one has the right to give a definite opinion on it; even we, who urge people to take it, admit that some side effects might happen, but only like any other vaccine; until now the vaccine has passed through the first three out of four stages and this is why it is not declared completely safe yet; it was approved before the fourth stage only because there was an emergency situation in the world that requires a fast measure; the quick usage came as a protection for the situation.AoHead of MoHAAEs Primary Health Directorate, Adel Belbeisi, who also received the vaccine himself, commented to The Star, AoAll medicines have side effects; we can have a bleeding state from Aspirin; if people managed to read the instruction of any medicine they have at home, they wouldnAAEt have used any medicine; but all those die side effects, including the H1N1 vaccine, form one percentage point out of a million; is it logical to postpone the vaccination of millions for such a percentage?AoAaOn the other hand, University professor Ahmad Hassan expressed his fears saying, AoIf the H1N1 vaccine is similar to any Continued on page 7Continued from page 3other vaccine and the swine flu itself is similar to the seasonal flu then why wouldnAAEt MoH and WHO pay more effort to draw awareness to the simplicity of the disease rather than intimidating people with a vaccination campaign that has increased peopleAAEs fears? We know that the deaths that have occurred were not due to the swine flu but to other chronic diseases that would cause the death in case of anything; deaths caused by the normal flu are even much more than those caused by the swine flu.AoAaIn another context, Belbeisi said, AoThe second batch of the vaccine is expected to arrive to Jordan by the end of December; the plan is to provide vaccination for about 80-90% of the citizens because this is the percentage of the social immunity.AoDue to a limited supply of doses, the ministry has said the immunization process will give priority to most vulnerable categories, including women in the third trimester of their pregnancy, children under 3 years of age and patients with severe asthma, kidney or heart failure, AIDS and cancer as well as those with type-1 diabetes.

Also among priority groups are medical staff, military and security personnel.AaThe MoH has allocated certain centers where citizens can get the vaccine which will not be provided elsewhere other than the governmentAAEs centers according to Belbeisi. Pharmacist Lama Rabadhi said, AoThe vaccine was not distributed to pharmacies; there is a certain amount received by Jordan, about 100,000 units, of which 5,000 will go to pilgrims.Ao Lama stressed that there is no need to fear from the vaccine. AoI recently received an e-mail from WHO assuring that the vaccine is as safe as any other vaccine; this H1N1 vaccine has the same structure of the other vaccines except for the materials that are special for this virus in particular; so there is no need for any fears.AoAaAgreeing, leading member of the Jordan Pharmacists Association, Sarraf Tarify, said that he personally will wait until more doses arrive to Jordan and his turn comes after the main priorities and will take the vaccine. AoThe only study that was spread among people saying that this vaccine is dangerous is not an accurate study; but people like to hear and believe the bad news; the H1N1 vaccine does not differ in the method of manufacturing from any other vaccine.AoAaSome people are afraid from the amount of Squalene contained in the H1N1 vaccine which is said to have caused many diseases among US soldiers in the Gulf War after international doctors reported that there is a million times more squalene in H1N1 vaccine than that given to the soldiers. AaTarifi however explained to The Star, AoThis material already exists in the human body; and it is added to vaccines as a stimulant material that lessens the need to use a larger amount of the same vaccine; it prepares the immune system to respond to the vaccine faster and without additional amounts of it; even normal vaccines have stimulant materials.Ao AaFor her part, Amal Saeed, a teacher who is not willing to take the vaccine nor give it to her children, shows an example of many Jordanian citizens who have fears from the vaccine due to the many stories they heard from around the world. She said, AoI heard that in China, a young girl had died after taking the vaccine although she was not suffering from other diseases; another French doctor assured he will not take it because it is not yet experimented enough and even if his children were infected by the flu, he will not give it to them; and he is a doctor.AoAaAnother example is SanaaAAE who talked about the conspiracy theory emanating from Finland, of all places. AoThe Health Minister in Finland said clearly and without hesitation that the US aims to reduce the worldAAEs population by about two thirds without losing but rather gaining many profits through selling the vaccine; WHO categorized the pandemic as dangerous in order to make the vaccine obligatory not optional; but Finland decided to consider the disease normal so no one would be urged to take the vaccine,Ao she detailed.AaQudah also tends to adopt this view. AoI question the sudden appearance of this disease and the media attention given to it and also the sudden approval of a vaccine for it and reporting the deaths in an intimidating policy while 99% of those who are infected get completely healed.AoOne of the many reasons that assist those who oppose the vaccine is the fact that the producing companies have passed a law in the US congress to exempt themselves from any legal accountability in case of any side effects.AaCommenting, Rabadhi said, AoAll medicines and drug companies have what is called a post marketing surveillance for their products.AoAaExplaining this issue, Tarifi noted, AoUnlike Jordan and Arab countries, in the US there have been many cases where people have sued medical companies for side effects and got millions of dollars as compensation; so it is usual for those companies to have such a request as they fear from legal lawsuits; this is not because the vaccine is not experimented yet; actually the vaccine had passed its two months test period, which is the same period for other vaccines.AoAlthough he is not sure if the vaccine is safe or not, Engineer Mahmoud believes that there is no reason to judge it in advance as Aowe always have the desire to consider ourselves victims of conspiracies; I am surprised to see such a mentality enter into the world of medicine and health. This is a medical and scientific issue; people have the right to express their fears but they do not have the right to decide whether the vaccine is safe or not; this is for experts to say and I think that the fear comes only from listening to the wrong source.Ao AaAlthough pregnant women are among the priority list in terms of receiving the vaccine, they happen to be among the most afraid to take it. AoI would never take the risk while I am pregnant,Ao said Randa, an expecting woman.AaIn another context, some believe that there is no use for taking the vaccine if the virus is unsteady and changes. AoThe H1N1 virus is changeable; the vaccine might not even have any effect on the disease which could then increase in the body; the vaccine is useless especially that we hear it is dangerous and was made purely for commercial purposes,Ao Randa told The Star.Aa AaRabadhi however assured that even the vaccine of the seasonal flu is changed and updated every year; which means the H1N1 vaccine is expected to be changed and this is normal.For his part, Tarifi added, AoUnfortunately, people relied on wrong sources of information, mainly media, and ignored the scientific sources which assure there is no problem with the vaccine; people should seek expert sources only; the doctors who commented against the vaccine might not have looked over the latest medical information from international medical trusted sources.AoAlthough Saudi Arabia announced four deaths until now among pilgrims, urging all pilgrims to take the vaccine, Jordanian pilgrims also hesitate to take heed. AoThe number of Jordanian pilgrims who have received the vaccine is very small compared with the total number of pilgrims,Ao Belbesi told The Star

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Nov 23, 2009
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