Risk from swine flu vaccine 'greater than catching virus'


THE RISKS associated with catching the current strain of the H1N1 virus are less than those connected with being given a new vaccine which has had limited clinical trials, according to an international commentator on swine flu.

“I believe vaccination may be right in the future – particularly if the virus becomes more virulent – but at the moment, the risks associated with vaccination outweigh the benefits,” said Dr Robert Verkerk, an environmental toxicologist who now works for the London-based Alliance for Natural Health.

“My concerns in particular are for pregnant women and babies under six months because we don’t know what the vaccine will do to young babies and unborn foetuses,” he said.

“Currently, most cases of H1N1 virus are mild. The outbreaks around the world appear to be identical and the first wave of infection is declining in intensity,” he added.

Dr Verkerk was speaking on the topic of Pandemics: Fact and Fictionat the Rude Health Show in Dublin at the weekend.

Showing World Health Organisation (WHO) graphs about the rise and fall of the H1NI virus around the world, he told his audience that staying informed was the most important thing anyone could do regarding potentially risky infectious diseases. He suggested there may be a lot of under-reporting of the H1N1 virus now in cases where the symptoms are relatively mild. “It seems that a lot more people have had the virus undetected than the WHO thinks and if this is the case, we won’t see a second wave of the H1N1 virus because so many people will have developed the antibodies against it.”

He also questioned the potential effectiveness of a vaccine based on the current strain of the H1N1 virus if a more virulent form of the virus develops. “The real risk is if the virus is transferred back to pigs and from them back to humans again. The current strain has probably been circulating in pigs for 10-17 years, according to a paper in Nature Biotechnology,” said Dr Verkerk.

The HSE has ordered 7.7 million doses of a vaccine against the H1N1 virus and the vaccination programme will be rolled out in the coming weeks, according to a spokesman.

“Yes, the spread of the virus seems to have reached a plateau, but we’re not into the normal flu season yet. We plan to offer the vaccine to those with underlying medical conditions first, then pregnant women and babies and then the rest of the population. As a public health service, we have to hope for the best but plan for the worst scenario,” he added.

The Alliance for Natural Health is a campaigning organisation which lobbies the European Union and other international bodies on natural medicines. On its website, the organisation encourages people to make their own risk/benefit decisions about vaccination

Rude Health, the annual trade show organised by the Irish Association of Health Stores, promotes natural ways of achieving a healthy balanced lifestyle through a series of lectures, product and therapy promotions.