[FoRK] Death Panels

Benjamin Black b at b3k.us
Fri Nov 6 13:39:05 PST 2009

Marty Halvorson wrote:
> I'm really complaining.  I'm old (69), and I can't get the H1N1 vaccine.
>  It's not a very favorable picture IMNSHO.

The evidence is that people your age, for whatever reason, are orders of
magnitude less likely to die from H1N1.  Vaccine supplies may be
limited.  What is your proposed solution to vaccine allocation that
simultaneously vaccinates the high mortality risk population and you?

> If it's true that I may have an acquired immunity to H1N1, why don't I
> have a similar immunity to the seasonal flu?  Sorry, it just doesn't
> make any sense to me.

Is that your opinion as a flu researcher?  Honestly, 'why does this
virus do different things than this other one?' seems obvious on the
face of it: they are different.  H1N1 combines material from several
strains of swine and avian flu (many of which don't infect humans at
all, go figure).  The surprise would be if H1N1 didn't behave differently!

The reason each flu season is different, and requires a different
vaccine, is because the flu, like other viral diseases, mutates and
crosses genetic material rapidly.  Those mutations effect radical
changes on the infection and mortality rates, including who is most at
risk.  The selection of the strain to use for the vaccines in a given
year is an interesting and involved process run by the WHO (vaccines are
not useful year to year, generally), exactly because of this variability.

> Furthermore, if it's true that "the H1N1 virus has a lower mortality
> than seasonal flu," why is it such a big deal?  Let's promote seasonal
> flu vaccination before H1N1 vaccination.

You should get both.  They are intended to protect against different
things.  You might also consider basing your statements on facts rather
than ignorant, panicky hearsay.


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