Are pregnant women being told the truth about the swine flu vaccine?

November 8, 2009

pregnant

An article in The Age (7/11/09) states the Swiss Society of Homeopathic Physicians recommends pregnant women should not take two of the swine flu vaccines licensed for use in Switzerland.

The World Health Organisation recommends Focetria and Pandemrix swine flu vaccines for pregnant women and they have been approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Yet the relevant product information documents from European Medicines Agency clearly state”
“There is currently no data available on the use of Pandemrix in pregnancy”
“There is currently no data available on the use of Focetria in pregnancy

Meaning neither vaccine has been tested on pregnant women.

They then qualify this statement, implying the vaccines are safe, “Data from pregnant women vaccinated with different inactivated non-adjuvanted seasonal seasonal vaccines do not suggest malformations or fetal or neonatal toxicity”

However neither of the vaccines in question is non-adjuvanted. Both clearly list adjuvants (including the highly controversial squalene) in their ingredients:

Pandemrix
AS03 adjuvant composed of:
squalene (10.69 milligrams)
DL-α-tocopherol (11.86 milligrams)
polysorbate 80 (4.86 milligrams)

Focetria
Adjuvant MF59C.1 containing:
squalene 9.75 milligrams
polysorbate 80 1.175 milligrams
sorbitan trioleate 1.175 milligrams
Despite this fact the EMA documents states, “The use of Pandemrix may be considered during pregnancy if this is thought to be necessary, taking into account official recommendations.”

So why has the WHO, the offical body making the recommendations, chosen to recommend an untested, adjuvanted vaccine for pregnant women?

WHO claims infected pregnant women are 10 times more likely to require hospitalization in intensive care units than infected persons in the general population, and 7% to 10% of hospitalized cases are women in their second or third trimester of pregnancy.

I tried to find data to support this claim.  It may indeed be correct but if so data is not readily available from their site. All I could find was the general hospitalization rates from the CDC, who have already been accused of inflating data.

To support the recommendation of the vaccines for pregnant women WHO quite definitely states, “The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risks.”  This is an outrageous statement given no comparative vaccine has been tested on pregnant women and therefore no data is available with which to evaluate the risks!*

So what are the risks for pregnant women?

If I were pregnant at the moment I’d want a concrete figure representing the risk of death so I could evaluate whether or not to take my chances with the vaccine.  As I haven’t come across one to date I decided to calculate it myself.

For this example I’m using Australian data as I’m familiar with the sources and it also illustrates a population that has already been through a winter of the swine flu “pandemic”.

As of 30th October 2009, 187 Australians had died from swine flu, four of whom were pregnant.

With a population of just over 22 million, that represents an overall death rate of 0.00085% for the general population.  (That in itself is revealing and goes a long way to counteract the hysteria.)

What is the death rate for pregnant women?

To determine that figure first of all I had to find out approximately how many women would have been pregnant during the 6 months of swine flu data collection. (The end of April to end of October)

I used the 2006 Perinatal data as these are the most recent figures that separate out the number of women from the number of births, which allows for twins and other multiple births.

There were 277,436 women who gave birth in 2006. If we divide that by 2 we ge can see approximately 138, 718  women would have been pregnant women during the target period.

If four women died during this period, that calculates out to 0.0029% risk of of a pregnant woman dying from swine flu.  It is a significant increase in comparison to the general population but the absolute risk remains minimal.  Again it is quite revealing and certainly doesn’t match the impression generated by the media.

The choice is yours but when you compare those risks to an unknown risk from an untested vaccine and the Swiss Homeopathic Society may indeed be right in recommending pregnant women should exercise caution.

Please note:
  • CSL’s vaccine (Australian’s supplier) vaccine does not adjuvants. However they also state in their product information sheet that no data is available for the use of Panvax in pregnancy, i.e. it has not been tested on pregnant women.
  • I haven’t got around to determining exactly which vaccines have been licensed for use in which countries. A list may be available on the WHO website (If so I haven’t come across it yet) or should be available on your relevant health department’s website. If you are pregnant please hunt out the name of the manufacturer, the name of the vaccine and work out the relative risk for the vaccine in your country. Although I don’t imagine it would be significantly different to the Australian figures.
  • *During my hunt for an image for this post I found the following article which reports the results of a US trial of swine flu vaccine on pregnant women.  Note this vaccine was unadjuvanted and did not contain thimersol (mercury based preservative) and was only tested on 120 women, which is not a large enough group show uncommon side effects.  There is a document on the WHO website that states adjuvants can be added after testing with an unadjuvanted vaccine.  (I’ll hunt it out.)  If you live in the US I urge you to hunt out the original study, as I’ve seen from the Australian trial (not on pregnant women) that data in the body of the study was significantly more enlightening than that of abstract and conclusion, and did not necessarily concur.  Our govenment chose to roll out the vaccine to pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions after a mere seven days of active safety testing on a mere 240 healthy non-pregnant individuals.
  • For the sake of comparision:  The WHO states 250,000 to 500,000 people die worldwide from normal seasonal influenza. As at then end of October- six months into the pandemic -just under 5000 people had died from swine flu.  Significantly less than would have been expected from normal seasonal flu.  A pregnant woman’s risk of dying from influenza is always higher than the general population but from these figures we can see the risk may actually be reduced this year.
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