Saturday, 15 August 2009

Why am I not surprised?

As I am writing this Breaking News on twitter (@BreakingNews) has reported of the first few cases of Tamiflu resistant Swine Flu in the US. Seeing as we are giving Tamiflu out like smarties in UK I predict it will be a few weeks before we start seeing resistant cases in the UK too. Great.

Its debatable if Swine Flu will surge back again in the autumn/winter. Certainly all the preparations are based around a second more severe wave of infection. Will it be the same virus or will it have subtly mutated so no-one will be immune who can tell? Its all guesswork from what I have been reading.

I'm not going to rant on about Tamiflu being rubbish in children as you guys already know that. I will say that the recent study from Oxford was dismissed by the Department of Health as the research was done on Seasonal Flu, not Swine Flu. A couple of points worth considering;

1) The reason why we are giving out Tamiflu en masse is based on this study, which was done on, (you've guessed it) Seasonal Flu. So its ok to use one study done on seasonal flu to justify Tamiflu, but not another - huh?

2) Its hard to do studies on an emerging pandemic influenza as its new and not been around long! As we are no longer swabbing who knows what illness the children really have? Hopefully we'll get some decent studies coming out soon but don't hold your breath.

I've been asking people on Twitter if they would have the Swine Flu vaccine if offered. Mixed responses really but some people are now so distrustful of the Governments handling of the Pandemic they would decline. Others don't want to use an untested vaccine.

Please don't confuse the vaccine with Tamiflu. Tamiflu is rubbish. The vaccine isn't. I understand reasons why people are fearful of the vaccine but its manufactured in exactly the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine, just a couple of protein bits are altered. It will still have to meet the stringent requirements for using a vaccine on the public. The seasonal flu jab is only manufactured a couple of months before the flu season but people don't panic that its not tested properly. Seasonal flu kills 12000 people per year in the UK, it would be considerably higher if we didn't vaccinate.

There was a small outbreak of Swine Flu in the states in the 1970's. The vaccine produced then was with inferior technology and there were a number of reactions to it. Vaccine production nowadays is considerably more advanced and safer.

Swine Flu is H1N1, Spanish Flu was H1N1 too and that killed roughly 50 million people. Ok the Swine Flu virus is slightly different but it still has that potential to kill. I don't want people to be dismissive of the vaccine just because Tamiflu was a load of shit. Swine Flu so far has been a mild illness in most. It may, or may not, stay that way. Should you have the vaccine if offered? I think so. Its personal choice though so don't take my word for it. Don't base your decision on the rantings of an irate GPs blog. There may be a risk in taking the vaccine but there is a risk in everything we do in life. I suspect the risk of harm from the vaccine is considerably smaller than the risk of driving to work, using routine medicines or even just mowing the lawn. And if you smoke? Well the risk of harm from that far far outweighs any possible complication from the vaccine.

Later folks! Stay healthy!


  1. Very interesting again....thank you. I was worried about the vaccine, I have an asthmatic child and a parent on immunosuppressants. It's good to hear different views.

  2. I agree. I personally wouldn't take Tamiflu either. The PCT sent me 800 free boxes when we started as an Antiviral collection point. We've had people shouting that they, "need their Tamiflu NOW" when we've been closing for lunch. As id 30 minutes makes a huge difference. The media have painted it as a cure-all which it cetainly isn't. Diarrhoea, sleep problems and maybe a slight decrease in the duration of your symptoms. I'd rather have flu for five days than flu and diarrhoea for four days!

    I'm looking forward to being vaccinated soon so that I do not need to panic so much about patients sneezing all over me (I didn't realise I wasn't meant to collect the Tamiflu myself)

  3. Forgot to mention. I would have my family vaccinated (based on current evidence) but if something turns up and its safer not to then I'll be the first to let you know.