Do You Know What’s In Your Flu Vaccine?

As the flu season approaches many people are preparing by having a flu shot administered. But does the flu vaccine really protect you from the flu? How about the H1N1, or Swine Flu? And what is actually in the flu vaccine?

The Mexican Study

Well, studies conducted in Mexico and published in the British Medical Journal found that, for the most part, that the vaccine that was prepared for the 2009 flu season may actually protect people from the H1N1 virus.

Out of a group of 179 unvaccinated people in Mexico, 29% became infected with the H1N1 virus, compared to only 13% of vaccinated people contracted the pandemic virus. However, 30% of patients who were unvaccinated died as a result of the swine flu, whilst none of the patients who were vaccinated died.

The Mexican researchers, who were funded by the Mexican Ministry of Health, Jose Luis Valdespino at the Laboratorios de Biologicos y Reactivos de Mexico, found that the seasonal vaccine that has been prepared for this year’s flu season contains a strain of the H1N1 virus. Because of this, the researchers believe that the vaccine will provide protection against the swine flu ‘because people who have been previously exposed to a similar virus have a heightened antibody response’.

However, it should be noted that this particular study was, unfortunately limited in regards to the number of patients that were assessed, therefore, more research is needed, stated the researchers.

“The results are to be considered cautiously and in no way indicate that seasonal vaccine should replace vaccination against pandemic influenza A/H1N1 2009,” said Valdespino.

Valdespino’s research team assessed 60 patients who were all diagnosed with the H1N1 strain of swine flu, as well as 180 uninfected people. The research team concluded that those patients who did not have the swine flu were ‘significantly more likely to have been vaccinated’.

The head of microbiology at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center, Menno de Jong, who wrote a supplementary editorial on the vaccine, believes that the study is biased because it only involved a mere 240 people and the results were quite diverse.

“It suggests that if you were vaccinated, it might mitigate the disease by boosting the immune response”, explained de Jong. “It’s a restricted level of protection, though, and highlights the need for a specific vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus.”

Currently, Novartis AG and Sanofi-Aventis SA are producing a specific flu vaccine to combat the new H1N1 strain that has infected approximately 340,000 people and killed at least 4,100 globally as of 27 September, 2009, according to the World Health Organization.

The Main Ingredients

Besides containing live vaccines that have been prepared from the fluids of chick embryos that were inoculated with a specific type of influenza virus, other ingredients that the flu vaccine contains are:

Egg proteins – This includes avian contaminant viruses

Gelatin – Many people and children are allergic to gelatin, which not only causes allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, it is also associated with sensitivity to eggs and gelatin

Polysorbate 80 – This also causes severe allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis, in those who are allergic

Formaldehyde – This is a known carcinogen, a cancer-causing agent

Triton X100- This is a rather strong detergent

Sucrose- Your typical table sugar

Resin – Also known to cause allergic reactions

Gentamycin, Neomycin and Streptomycin – These are used as antibiotics and have been known to cause allergic reactions in some people

Thimerosal – This is a form of mercury and is used in the vaccine as both a disinfectant and a preservative. However, it can also result in brain injury and autoimmune disease

Ethylene glycol – This is antifreeze!

Phenol – This is also called Carbolic Acid and is primarily used as a disinfectant as well as a dye

Aluminum – Not only has aluminum been associated with Alzheimer’s disease and seizures, it is also known to produce cancer in laboratory mice. In the flu vaccine aluminum is used as an additive to promote antibody response

When to Get Vaccinated

According the Centers for Disease Control, a yearly flu vaccination should be given as soon as the vaccine is available, which is usually in September. However, peak influenza activity occurs around January or later of the New Year.

The Effectiveness Of The Flu Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control has stated that the health status and age of the person who being inoculated with the flu vaccine, will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Since there are a variety of influenza viruses out in the world, and the flu vaccine only provides protection from one or two of them, people being taking the vaccine will only be protected from those viruses that are contained in the vaccine itself.

Photo Credit: Daquella Manera

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