This Week in Swine Flu: Pregnant Women's Concerns & Hospital Woes

By Eliza Strickland | October 1, 2009 5:23 pm

swine-flu-newsAs the nation prepares for a massive vaccination campaign to protect the most vulnerable people from the swine flu virus, scientists are preparing to combat public fears over the vaccine. Scientists worry that the public (or at least the activists who are convinced, against all scientific evidence, that vaccines cause autism and other diseases) will misinterpret coincidental deaths as side effects of the vaccine.

As soon as swine flu vaccinations start next month, some people getting them will drop dead of heart attacks or strokes, some children will have seizures and some pregnant women will miscarry…. “There are about 2,400 miscarriages a day in the U.S…. You’ll see things that would have happened anyway. But the vaccine doesn’t cause miscarriages. It also doesn’t cause auto accidents, but they happen” [The New York Times], says Jay Butler of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is particularly focused on convincing pregnant women of the vaccine’s safety. A recent study in The Lancet reported strikingly high rates of death and of complications like pneumonia in pregnant women with H1N1 influenza. Pregnancy meant a fourfold risk of hospitalization, sometimes with a tragic outcome [The New York Times]. Experts note that pregnant women often avoid medications out of fear of harming the fetus, but say that these women should be among the first to get vaccinated for swine flu, and should swiftly start antiviral medications if they come down with the virus. To date, the virus has killed 28 pregnant women in the United States.

In parts of the country where the outbreak is in full swing, some hospitals are getting creative, and have opened drive-through and drive-up tent clinics to screen and treat patients. The idea behind these efforts is to keep coughing, feverish people out of regular emergency rooms, where they can infect heart attack victims and other very sick patients [AP]. Doctors can quickly identify the small percentage of people who are sick enough to be admitted and hand out medication to those who need it without swamping emergency rooms.

The hospitals are right to look for ways to increase efficiency, because a new report from the CDC estimates that swine flu cases could overload U.S. hospitals. Fifteen states could run out of hospital beds and 12 more could fill 75 percent of their beds with swine flu sufferers if 35 percent of Americans catch the virus in coming weeks…. “Our point in doing this is not to cry Chicken Little but really to point out the potential even a mild pandemic can have and how readily that can overwhelm the healthcare delivery system,” [said] Jeffrey Levi, director of Trust for America’s Health, which sponsored the report [Reuters].

Related Content:
80beats: This Week in Swine Flu: Vaccine Coming Soon, but What Do Parents Think?
80beats: This Week in Swine Flu: Vaccines Approved!, Masks vs. Hand-Washing
80beats: This Week in Swine Flu: Good News on Vaccines, Bad News in China

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Dr. Jake Felice

    Where are the studies documenting the safety of vaccines in Healthy Children? Seriously. Where are all of the safety studies of flu vaccines and children? We’re going to be vaccinating millions of them and there are legitimate safety concerns. Nobody in government or industry is promising families that this vaccination program is safe or won’t harm our kids. Additionally, none of the patient inserts from the vaccine manufacturers claim the vaccine will prevent you from the H1N1 Swine Flu. If they read it, parents will be able to see this lack of any kind of promise of safety or effectiveness on the insert for themselves. This is not a conspiracy. Families want and need to know this information!

    Sadly, I believe that most people are making uninformed decisions and that in the a lot of money is being made by a small number of people. Flu shots = money, not safety.

    Many Physicians are openly opposing swine flu vaccination.

  • Em

    I’m worried that if illness or causalities occur as a result of the vaccine they would be overlooked and ignored because scientists are saying it’s simply coincidental. Yes there most certainly will be coincidental cases, I just don’t want people to ignore what may potentially happen until it is too late. I just wouldn’t want to see another 1976 vaccine incident, that’s all.

    But I agree with Dr. Jake in that people need to know that information, for their own comfort and so they can know if their decision is correct or not.

  • Dr. Jake Felice

    In 1976, 46 million people were vaccinated against the swine flu virus and 4,000 people developed Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a neurological disease that can lead to paralysis or even death. The “GBS and mortality” rate attributed to the swine flu vaccine was less than .01% but try telling that to the families. I’m not willing to roll the dice on this untested vaccine. There is no way to determine ahead of time if any one individual will have an adverse reaction from any vaccine. As of now, I see the H1N1 vaccine as a greater threat to me and my family than the actual virus itself.

    What was disturbing in 1976 and today is the speed by which the H1N1 vaccine was developed and rushed to market.

    Many Physicians are opposing swine flu vaccination. Flu shots = money, not safety. Don’t believe the hype! -Dr. Jake

  • Sam

    Fake Dr. Jake,

    80% of those vaccinated mount an immune response that is large enough to prevent infection with the new H1N1, and most of the rest mount a response large enough to prevent severe illness. No adverse health reactions have been observed in clinical trials short of the typical benign vaccine side effects like mild arm pain, headache, etc., many of which are likely the result of vaccine anxiety, which your irresponsible fear-mongering certainly doesn’t help. The vaccine is manufactured in the same way that seasonal flu vaccine, which we know to be extremely safe, is manufactured. It passed safety and efficacy trials, and that is why it was approved.

    Guillain-Barre occurs in the population at a rate of 1/100,000 per year. It is a transient autoimmune reaction that is known to occur after infections (including influenza) and trauma. The majority recovers fully. The 1976 vaccine might have caused an excess of 500 cases over what would have normally occured in the vaccinated population of 46,000,000, but experts disagree over whether the vaccine was responsible at all. Assuming it was, the rate of GBS attributable to the vaccine was 1/92,000, which is very close to the background rate of GBS. Remember that infection can cause GBS, and that the immune response following vaccination is much more tempered than when triggered by infection, which means infection is a greater risk factor for GBS than vaccination (which might as well be zero).

    You keep saying that many physicians oppose vaccination as if that argument holds sway…it doesn’t. I’m sure there are some physicians who oppose it, but that isn’t surprising because attaining a medical degree doesn’t make one immune to poor critical thinking skills. I’m sure you’re aware of Deepak Chopra. Sadly, I bet he’s a hero of yours.


    The vaccine is going to be closely monitored for side effects, as vaccines have been for decades. Experts will be able to distinguish coincidence from probable causation by comparing the rate of adverse occurances following vaccination to the background rate. If there is a spike, then that would be cause for concern.

  • Dr. Jake Felice

    Do flu shots work?

    Not in babies: In a review of more than 51 studies involving more than 294,000 children it was found there was “no evidence that injecting children 6-24 months of age with a flu shot was any more effective than placebo. In children over 2 yrs, it was only effective 33% of the time in preventing the flu. Reference: Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children.”$=citationsensor The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

    Not in children with asthma: A study 800 children with asthma, where one half were vaccinated and the other half did not receive the influenza vaccine. The two groups were compared with respect to clinic visits, emergency department (ED) visits, and hospitalizations for asthma. CONCLUSION: This study failed to provide evidence that the influenza vaccine prevents pediatric asthma exacerbations. Reference:$=citationsensor “Effectiveness of influenza vaccine for the prevention of asthma exacerbations.” Christly, C. et al. Arch Dis Child. 2004 Aug;89(8):734-5.

    Not in children with asthma (2): “The inactivated flu vaccine, Flumist, does not prevent influenza-related hospitalizations in children, especially the ones with asthma…In fact, children who get the flu vaccine are more at risk for hospitalization than children who do not get the vaccine.” Reference: The American Thoracic Society’s 105th International Conference, May 15-20, 2009, San Diego.

    Not in adults: In a review of 48 reports including nearly 66,000 adults, “Vaccination of healthy adults only reduced risk of influenza by 6% and reduced the number of missed work days by less than one day (0.16) days. It did not change the number of people needing to go to hospital or take time off work.” Reference: “Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults.”$=citationsensor The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

    Not in the Elderly: In a review of 64 studies in 98 flu seasons, for elderly living in nursing homes, flu shots were non-significant for preventing the flu. For elderly living in the community, vaccines were not (significantly) effective against influenza, ILI or pneumonia. Reference:$=citationsensor “Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly.”.

  • Dr. Jake Felice

    This issue is in many ways a question of can we as individuals make our own choices in this world? Can I as a man think deeply about an unclear situation (vaccines and H1N1) and choose what I feel is best for me and my family?

    Once again, the big question is where are the studies documenting the safety of vaccines in Healthy Children? Seriously. Where are all of the safety studies of flu vaccines and children? We’re going to be vaccinating millions of them and there are legitimate safety concerns. Nobody is promising families that this vaccination program is safe or won’t harm their kids. Flu shots = money, not safety. Additionally, none of the patient inserts from the vaccine manufacturers claim the vaccine will prevent us from getting the H1N1 Swine Flu. Parents will be able to read this for themselves and see that there are no claims for either safety or effectiveness in the handout. This is not a conspiracy. Families want and need to know this information.

    I personally do not plan to take the vaccine myself as nobody can promise me that it’s safe and won’t harm me. Vaccination is a medical intervention performed on a healthy person that has the ability to result in injury or death of that person. I do not want any medicine that could kill me, especially when I’m not sick. How does that make any sense? The flu at least I know is relatively safe and won’t permanently damage me.

    The dangers of vaccinations to us, or our children’s long-term health and longevity far outweigh any potential benefits touted by the pharmaceutical industry for vaccines. Vaccines often don’t work, plus they have very dangerous side-effects. I would at least think twice before getting one.

    Many Physicians opposing swine flu vaccination. Flu shots = money, not safety. Don’t believe the hype!

  • Dr. Jake Felice

    H1N1 Vaccines and Your Children: The details are in the fine print!

    WARNING: Safety and effectiveness of Influenza A (H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccine have not been established in pregnant women or nursing mothers or children <6 months of age. References from the CDC included at link above. Seeing is believing so take a look not only for yourself, but for your family as well.

  • Bayleigh

    I have been googling H1N1 Vaccines for pregnant women, because i am 4 months pregnant. My doctor has not said anything to me about it, nor have i asked. I am conserned about getting H1N1 because a small boy died last week from it and underlying conditions, in the area i live. Im a stay at home mom, of a 2yr old, and I am in my 20s! Family members have very different opinions on rather to recieve the shot, if it becomes avaliable. However, my gut reaction is to not recieve the shot. That might have to do with a ” its never going to happen to me” attitude. I just dont think that i could take a chance on loseing the baby, even though i could lose it if i came down with swine flu. It is just so complicated. I just wish there were some FACTS to the outcome of pregnant women and their babies, whom have been given the shot. Although i would not be a guine pig in that situation.

  • Rosci T

    Just ran into a friend in the store. She had her daughter with her, who definitely looked ill. The woman explains to me, “She’s been home sick with the flu. I wanted her to get out and get some fresh air.” GAH! Then she goes on, “I don’t think it’s the Swine Flu, but this swept through her high school, and 90% of the kids have Swine Flu.” I asked her if all the kids had been tested. She said, “No. But after the first 20 or so, the School just sent everyone home and told them they all had Swine flu. It was costing too much to test all of them.”

    Which brings up (other than, LEAVE YOUR KIDS AT HOME IF THEY ARE SICK!)
    ~~~ How do we KNOW the cases are Swine flu if this scenario is being repeated in all the schools. If they aren’t testing the kids, (and I’ve raised a few teenagers) how do we know the kids were sick at all?

    The govt and scientists are doing their darnedest to convince us to take these vaccines. Instead of noticing that they created this atmosphere of doubt with their bumbling and their false proclamations and handwringing early on that led to no more than the usual number of regular ol’ flu cases last spring. Then they were on TV and the radio cheerily announcing that “There will be another outbreak in the Fall!” Like they were announcing an end of season sale. Something has been fishy about this one all along. They are reaping what they sew.

    BTW – I have never had a flu shot. Never plan on having one. I also have had flu less than 5 times in the past 2 decades. I eat right. I take vitamins. I am not overweight. I wash my hands a lot. I stay away from schools and hospitals as much as possible. I use Xclear spray in my nose during air travel and during the seasons when the CDC “sends” out the flu and other diseases.

    We are an impressionable lot. When we are constantly bombarded with descriptions of the symptoms, it’s easy to suddenly feel them. Teenagers are especially susceptible to suggestion. Perhaps if we truly want to protect our people, instead of broadcasting the symptoms, we should be broadcasting “How to Stay Well,”

  • Jake

    Thimerosal in Swine Flu Vaccines is Safe? Who are we kidding??

    There will be MOST DEFINITELY be thimerosal in many if not most H1N1 vaccines. Directly from the CDC: “The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines that FDA is licensing (approving) will be manufactured in several formulations. Some will come in multi-dose vials and will contain thimerosal as a preservative. Multi-dose vials of seasonal influenza vaccine also contain thimerosal to prevent potential contamination after the vial is opened. Some 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines will be available in single-dose units, which will not require the use of thimerosal as a preservative. In addition, the live-attenuated version of the vaccine, which is administered intranasally (through the nose), is produced in single-units and will not contain thimerosal.”


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