Millions Inoculated Against Swine Flu—Why?
RESIDENTS of the United States are involved in what could be the largest public-health campaign ever carried out in that country. On August 12, 1976, U.S. President Gerald Ford signed a bill providing for a nationwide swine influenza vaccination program. Early in April the House Appropriations Committee had approved spending $135 million for the vaccine campaign. The government planned to buy the vaccine from the manufacturers and then make these shots available to all 215 million Americans.
This program has raised a number of questions. So some basic points can be considered with profit.
Why Vaccinate People Against Swine Flu?
In the FDA Consumer of May 1976, Timothy Larkin, who is a special assistant to the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, wrote: “When a new strain of flu virus is discovered, a serious outbreak often occurs in the following ‘flu season.’ And when the new strain appears to be a close relative of the virus that raged worldwide in 1918-19, killing some 20 million people, there is cause for concern—and action. That’s why FDA [the Food and Drug Administration] is in the forefront of an unprecedented effort to draw on the resources and knowledge of government, industry, and the health professions to produce, distribute, and administer to the American people a vaccine that is capable of preventing an epidemic of potentially dangerous flu.”
Inoculation with this vaccine is for the purpose of preventing a person’s contracting swine flu, officially known as A/New Jersey/76 influenza virus. The shot will cause the recipient’s body to build up antibodies to fight the disease, and it is expected that this protection will begin about two weeks after inoculation. Some experts say that these vaccinations are 85 percent effective, but an estimate as low as 20 percent has been given. It might be added that since there are various types of flu, an individual inoculated for one strain is not thereby made immune to other strains.
Christians are Scripturally required to abstain from eating blood or using it to nourish the body or to sustain one’s life. (Acts 15:28, 29) However, vaccines are not made from blood. For detailed information on serums and vaccines, please consult Awake! of August 22, 1965, pages 18 and 19.
What Prompted This Program?
On February 4, 1976, Pvt. David Lewis, a nineteen-year-old recruit at the Fort Dix, New Jersey, army base, complained of feeling feverish and was experiencing nasal congestion, sore throat and headache. Though told to remain in the barracks for forty-eight hours and then report for a checkup, this infantryman participated in a march the next night. During the march he collapsed and was dead shortly after arrival at the base hospital. A throat swab revealed the presence of a virus resembling a kind usually noted only in swine. Also, blood samples of individuals who had survived the “Spanish flu” of 1918-19 indicated that the present virus resembled the one that was responsible for that devastating epidemic.
There are said to have been twelve confirmed cases of swine flu at Fort Dix. However, blood samples were taken from 10 percent of the military personnel there and tests were undertaken. Dr. Fred M. Davenport of the public-health school of the University of Michigan reported: “There was serologic evidence of more than 500 cases of swine flu occurring in recruits at Fort Dix within a six-week period.” So the virus had spread and over 500 gave evidence of exposure to it.
The Fort Dix outbreak led to discussions by federal, state and other experts. Following consideration of recommendations made in a meeting with medical and health experts, U.S. President Ford, on March 24, 1976, announced the vaccination program. While there were uncertainties about the virus, noted virologist Dr. Edwin D. Kilbourne said that experience had shown that the appearance of a major flu mutation “heralds a pandemic,” or earth-wide epidemic. He contended: “The identification of a new strain of influenza at Fort Dix has given us the opportunity, for the first time in history, to do something about a pandemic in advance.”
Will There Really Be a Swine Flu Pandemic?
Actually, no one can be certain that a swine flu pandemic will occur. Still, some reason as does Dr. Delano Meriwether, director of the National Influenza Immunization Program. He remarked: “It’s essentially a gamble, based on the likelihood of something happening, without a guarantee of it happening. I think the American people will feel more comfortable having the choice of being vaccinated.”
By early June, however, no European government had considered the threat of a serious swine flu outbreak sufficiently substantial “to undertake mass vaccination, although Britain, France, the Soviet Union and probably others are stockpiling the vaccine,” reported the New York Times. Dr. W. Charles Cockburn, director of the World Health Organization’s Communicable Disease Division, pointed out that by then the flu season already had started in the southern hemisphere, but that the swine flu had not been noted by influenza centers in New Zealand, Australia and Singapore. Also, critics mentioned that none of the ninety-six flu-monitoring centers had by then reported further instances of swine influenza.
Has the “Spanish Flu” Returned?
Certain early press reports associated the Fort Dix flu outbreak with “the specter of 1918,” the so-called “Spanish flu” that brought death to millions. “It has proven similarities,” writes Barbara Yuncker in the New York Post, “but nobody has samples of the 1918 bug, so nobody really knows.” Boyce Rensberger reported: “Even some of the officials and outside scientists involved in the decision to immunize now say that the early speculation that the Fort Dix virus was similar to the 1918 virus was unfounded and should have been rebutted more vigorously.”—New York Times, July 23, 1976.
Is Swine Flu Really a Killer?
One death at Fort Dix has been associated with swine flu. Interestingly, however, Arnold Chanin, M.D., of Los Angeles, California, writes: “As we in medical practice know, the ‘flu’ is not a killer. The ‘500,000’ flu-related deaths in the United States during the 1918 epidemic were, as have been all flu-related deaths since, due to complications, mainly bronchopneumonia, viral pneumonia, and other forms of lower respiratory tract infection.”
Dr. Chanin refers to the death of the recruit at Fort Dix and says, “The youth died from viral pneumonia.” He adds: “The total picture here is not that influenza can kill, but that multiple factors, combined with flu, can cause morbidity and mortality. In this case the triad was: exhaustion from the march, influenzal infection, and viral pneumonia. There may have been other factors which, as yet, have not been revealed in the press.”—Medical Tribune, September 1, 1976.
It cannot be said, of course, that an influenza epidemic would not result in deaths. There has been disagreement among certain scientists about whether a swine influenza pandemic would break out during this flu season. But John Irvin, who is directing the vaccination program in Ohio, seems to express a sentiment that has prevailed, in saying: “It’s a lot better to do something and be wrong than to do nothing and be faced with a terrible epidemic.” So, while there are proponents and opponents, the swine flu immunization program is under way.
Is It Now Dangerous to Eat Pork?
Authorities say that if the virus is present, it would be only in the hog’s lung tissue, not in the meat that humans eat. Also, the virus would be destroyed by cooking, even at temperatures considerably below 170 degrees Fahrenheit (77 degrees Celsius).
When and Where Will the Shots Be Given?
The U.S. swine flu immunization program was to begin in late September and continue into December 1976. Local and state health departments were allowed to determine locations and times for inoculation. Vaccinations could also be administered by private doctors. The vaccine is being furnished free of charge, though donations may be requested by certain projects. Private doctors may charge for the office visit or for administering the inoculation, but those doing so do not have the liability protection provided by legislation that was approved by the U.S. Congress early in August.
Who Will Be Vaccinated?
Michael White, who is with the swine flu office of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, explained that inoculation is recommended especially for individuals over sixty-five years of age, as well as those with diabetes and chronic illnesses, persons suffering from heart, lung and kidney diseases. (Recommended for them is a vaccine prepared to protect against both the Victorian- and swine-flu strains, whereas other adults may receive a shot for only swine flu.) According to White, doctors consider the shot no peril to the fetus in the case of a pregnant woman. The swine flu vaccination was being recommended for everybody over the age of twenty-five, and only one shot is needed. For younger persons a vaccination and a booster shot may be necessary.
Are Adverse Reactions Possible?
Some people should not receive these shots. Persons with fevers should not get them. Nor should individuals allergic to eggs, for they may develop hives or asthma, or may experience severe shock. Anyone wondering whether a certain medical condition rules out the shot should consult his personal doctor.
According to Michael White, reactions to the vaccination may include a sore arm and redness around the area where the shot is given. For a few days a person may have a fever of 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 to 40 degrees Celsius). Adverse reactions may occur within 48 hours after the inoculation, but tests reportedly indicate that these side effects are not worse than the flu itself. White pointed out that in tests, only 1.9 percent of those receiving the inoculations developed a fever. Another source stated that there is no danger of contracting swine flu from the shot, or of becoming a carrier of the disease to others due to the vaccination.
Dr. Anthony Morris, former director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Slow, Latent and Temporate Virus Branch, reportedly undertook influenza hypersensitivity studies. In explanation, a press report published July 29, 1976, stated:
“Hypersensitivity means that if a person gets a flu shot and then is later exposed to the flu, he will come down with an even more severe case than he would have gotten had he not taken the flu shot at all. . . .
“In one 1968 study alone, 54 per cent of those getting a flu shot came down with severe cases of influenza during the next flu epidemic, while only 25 per cent of those not taking the flu shot got the flu.”
Medical viewpoints and opinions vary, of course. By mid-August the swine flu vaccine had been tested on over 5,000 individuals. Officers of the Center for Disease Control reported that the studies indicated that the vaccine was safe and would prove effective in the case of most adults.
Insurance companies have been unwilling to provide the swine flu vaccine manufacturers with liability coverage in this program. But the U.S. Congress has passed a law specifying that all injury claims in the program are to be filed against the federal government. It, in turn, can sue the vaccine maker or other participant charged with the negligence claimed in the original lawsuit.
How Is the Vaccine Made?
The virus in this vaccine is cultured in chicken eggs. That is why persons allergic to eggs should not take swine flu shots.
Procedures followed by manufacturers vary somewhat. First, however, each egg intended for vaccine purposes is candied, or examined with light, to make certain that it contains a live embryo. So, animal life is a factor. But man has a right to use such creature life for his benefit.—Gen. 9:3, 4.
Next these eleven-day-old eggs are inoculated with the seed virus. Following a period of incubation, the eggs are opened mechanically, the virus-laden allantoic fluid is harvested, and formaldehyde is used to kill the virus. Vaccine production is complete only after further processing. Perhaps as many as 100 million fertile eggs will be needed for swine flu vaccine production.
Shall I Be Vaccinated Against Swine Flu?
Are you planning to ‘roll up your sleeve and get a swine flu shot’? Since inoculation with this vaccine is voluntary in the United States, individuals can consider the potential benefits and risks, making a personal decision. After weighing the various factors considered herein, what will you do?