Nine “myths” about H1N1 vaccine are not myths at all
Friday, Oct 16, 2009
The New York Times has produced a detailed lesson plan for students in grades 6-12 that pushes the H1N1 flu vaccine and sets about debunking what the editors describe as “myths” surrounding the swine flu shot.
The material originates from the Times’ Learning Network feature , an educational resource for teachers and parents that works the Times’ coverage of current events into daily lesson plans for young students.
The writers of the material  are New York Times employees that have backgrounds in education. The material itself is recommended for use in schools and is required to meet with McREL  standards.
As an introduction to the piece, a video presents a Times reporter walking the streets of new york in a full bio suit, gloves, goggles and mask asking people their opinions on swine flu. The video seems mostly pointless other than to make the reporter’s activity seem like a complete overreaction. It briefly introduces the vaccine in a positive light, and later on in the lesson plan, teachers are asked to remind students of this.
The lesson plan then states:
Have students return to their journals to add their thoughts on her final words. Invite students to share their journal writings, and then move the discussion to the vaccine. Ask: Do you plan to get the newly released H1N1 vaccine? Why or why not? What have you heard about it? Are you confused about it at all? What fears and questions, if any, do you have about the vaccine?
The plan then introduces a handout entitled H1N1 Vaccine: Facts or Myths? (PDF Link ) and instructs the teacher or parent to conceal from the students the fact that all nine points on the list are “myths”.
As we will discover, none of the points are “myths” at all, and the New York Times is engaging in debunking entirely legitimate information.
The students are then asked to label which points they think are true and which are false statements.
This method of initially tricking the students into thinking that some of the statements are true is an insidious one, not only because they are actually true(!), but it also amplifies the proposed notion that all of the statements are false. It is a common method used by psychoanalysts to assess the mindset of patients.
The students are then instructed to read a New York Times op ed piece written by Paul A. Offit entitled “Nothing to Fear but the Flu Itself ”. With no supporting evidence, the piece suggests that fears over the H1N1 vaccine are unfounded and suggests that the vaccines are entirely safe.
Students are then asked the following questions:
- Have you seen or read any of these myths on TV talk shows or Web sites? What, if any, were your previous concerns about them?
- Has the article assuaged your fears?
- In your opinion, which myth will cause the most people to avoid being vaccinated and why?
- What could be done to encourage participation in the vaccination program?
The students are then told that all the points on the handout are “myths” and are split into groups to further debunk each statement with the help of a resource sheet (PDF Link ) containing links to more Times articles, as well as material from the CDC and the WHO.
The final activity on the lesson plan involves asking students to conduct role plays in which one of them will play a “skeptic” of the vaccine and one will play an “expert”:
When students are ready, each pair “gets into character” and moves to the front or middle of the room to do their role-play for the whole class, with the “skeptic” explaining his/her worries and concerns, and the “expert” addressing them.
The skeptic pretends to be a mother concerned about mercury in the vaccines, for example, and the expert allays her fears with what they have read in the supporting NY Times material.
Essentially, the children are being taught to reject and then debunk valid concerns over the H1N1 vaccine.
The final part of the lesson plan states:
Finally, invite students to share any of their own lingering doubts about the data – does anyone in the room still subscribe to any of the erroneous statements on the original handout?
It then suggests that outside of the classroom the students should educate others in their school or in their community by creating posters or short videos “based on the myths they researched”.
The whole piece reads like a instruction manual in how to brainwash children to love the flu vaccine and to get others to love it.
If this Times material is not a part of the $16 million federal programme  to quell dissent over the vaccine, then the Feds might want to take a leaf out of the Times’ book here.
Debunking The New York Times’ Debunking
Lets take a look at the nine “myths” about the H1N1 vaccine that children are being encouraged to examine, debunk, and actively encourage others to reject.
Here they are in sequence with our responses below, clearly showing that they are not myths at all, but are all based on legitimate information:
1. The flu is mild, so I don’t need to worry about getting a vaccine.
This is not a myth. The H1N1 flu is mild compared to the seasonal flu  which kills some 30,000 people per year in the US alone. There has been no indication that more people than usual are getting the flu or dying from it.
“It’s mildest in kids. That’s one of the really good pieces of news in this pandemic,” Dr Marc Lipsitch of Harvard University  told a meeting of flu experts being held by the U.S. Institute of Medicine last month.
In Canada too , the virus does not seem to be spreading quickly, a fact that has prompted the country’s top public health official to put the brakes on an early rollout of the H1N1 vaccine.
The virus could still mutate into something worse, but if it does that, the current vaccine will most likely be rendered obsolete anyway.
2. Since my region was hit hard in the spring, there won’t be a big reemergence this flu season.
Again, this is not a myth. The New York Times itself  reported on the fact that doctors and health officials in areas that were subjected to H1N1 flu last spring are seeing very little evidence to suggest that the virus is returning in a much predicted “second wave”.
It is the theory of Dr. Thomas A. Farley, New York City’s health commissioner, and the doctor cited in the Times’ debunking piece, that up to 40% of the city’s population may have developed immunity to the virus.
3. The vaccine will be available too late to do any good
Not exactly a myth either. In Canada there are legitimate concerns that the vaccines are simply going to be too late to stop any spread of the virus. These concerns were published in the peer reviewed journal Science .
The vaccine may not do any good anyway because it is based on “mock up” vaccines  that were produced in 2007 and 2008 for the H5N1 strain of influenza, not H1N1.
Even if the vaccine produces antibodies, that’s not the same thing as real-world immunity from a live virus, especially if the virus mutates.
As Mike Adams has pointed out in a recent article , statistically speaking the average American is 40 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to have their life saved by a swine flu vaccine.
4. The vaccine is unsafe, it could have dangerous side effects
The inserts to the H1N1 vaccines  all state that it could cause all manner of adverse effects, including guillain-barre syndrome, vasculitis, anaphylactic shock and even death.
Why would the drug companies put that in the insert to the vaccine itself if it was a “myth”?
If it was a myth that the vaccines could cause side effects then why would the government waste time establishing an extensive tracking system to watch for side effects ?
5. I can catch flu from the vaccine
The first available vaccines, in the form of nasal mist, contain live H1N1 virus . Their use could actually spur the spread of the virus where there is otherwise little activity, according to some medical experts.
A Canadian study led by Dr Danuta Skowronski of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and Dr Gaston De Serres of Laval University, Quebec has also found that seasonal flu jabs could double the risk of developing swine flu .
The World Health Organisation has dismissed the research as inconclusive, however some provincial and territorial public health authorities in Canada, including those in Ontario, have expressed great concern , leading to threats to delay or cancel mass vaccination programs.
6. The vaccine is untested. Manufacturers rushed the production of the vaccine to get it to the market
The vaccine has been fast tracked .
The pharmaceutical companies themselves admit  that there is “no clinical experience in the elderly, in children or in adolescents” with their new vaccines.
7. The vaccine contains a dangerous adjuvant, a chemical added to enhance the immune response.
Both the Novartis and Glaxo-Smith Kline injectible vaccines will contain squalene adjuvants to boost immunogenicity and dramatically reduce the amount of viral antigen needed, meaning more vaccines can be produced.
Again, the New York Times itself  reported on this last month.
There will be non adjuvanted H1N1 vaccines available, but there will not be enough for the projected number of people who have said they will get the vaccine.
Experts on Gulf War Syndrome have pointed out that the official, Congressionally-chartered Research Advisory Committee on Gulf War Veterans’ Illnesses found evidence  of a link between squalene and Gulf War Syndrome which warranted further study.
Micropaleontologist Dr. Viera Scheibner, who conducted research into the adverse effects of adjuvants in vaccines, wrote the following about squalene, as highlighted in researcher Stephen Lendman’s article  on the adjuvant:
Squalene “contributed to the cascade of reactions called “Gulf War syndrome. (GIs developed) arthritis, fibromyalgia, lymphadenopathy, rashes, photosensitive rashes, malar rashes, chronic fatigue, chronic headaches, abnormal body hair loss, non-healing skin lesions, aphthous ulcers, dizziness, weakness, memory loss, seizures, mood changes, neuropsychiatric problems, anti-thyroid effects, anaemia, elevated ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate), systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, ALS, Raynaud’s phenomenon, Sjorgren’s syndrome, chronic diarrhea, night sweats and low-grade fever.”
As vaccine expert Dr. Meryl Nass  has pointed out, since none of the US trials have so far used novel adjuvants, they fail to provide any information about the safety of adjuvanted vaccines.
Senior neurologists have also voiced concerns over the adjuvants  in the vaccines.
8. The vaccine contains a dangerous preservative containing ethyl mercury
Again this is not a myth. As the Washington Post reported in the Summer, “Some of the vaccine will be stored in multi-dose vials containing thimerosal, an antibacterial additive that contains mercury”.
Scientific studies have shown  a direct relationship between thimerosal in flu shots and neurological disorders.
Cases of the neural development disorder autism amongst children have doubled since 2003 , in line with an increase in the amount of thimerosal-containing childhood vaccines.
Epidemiologist Tom Verstraeten and Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado, both concluded that thimerosal was responsible for the dramatic rise in cases of autism, however, their findings were dismissed by the CDC.
Further studies have shown a decline in neurodevelopmental disorders  after the removal of thimerosal-containing vaccines.
The science needs further study, that is clear, but to outright reject that the vaccines even contain the questionable substance is the stuff of farce. Why are we even having the debate if this is a “myth”?
9. I can get medicine if I do get sick, so the vaccine is not necessary
It is up to the individual or parent to choose whether to get the vaccine for themselves or their child. Saying that people who feel it is not necessary for them and their kids are wrong doesn’t make it so.
It is beyond the authority of a school or the government to surreptitiously teach a child that vaccines are necessary.