Every day Americans wake up to news reports that warn us about the dangers of influenza, especially the new H1N1 “swine flu”.
But swine flu is mild for most people and the virus is not mutating into a more serious form.
Millions of people around the world have recovered from swine flu, and millions more will get sick with fevers, body aches, nasal congestion, cough and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting and recover from it this year and next year without any complications.
Nonetheless, wide-scale vaccination is being encouraged -- even though swine flu vaccines have been tested on only a few thousand healthy Americans for a few weeks. There is little or no information about how safe the vaccine is for pregnant women and chronically ill or disabled children.
If you or your child are injured from getting a flu swine flu shot, you are on your own. Congress has shielded the vaccine manufacturers and any person giving swine flu shots from lawsuits if people get hurt.
There is no funded government vaccine injury compensation program for swine flu vaccine.
Do NOT let a doctor or anyone else tell you that a serious health problem you or your child experiences after vaccination is a coincidence and allow more shots to be given until you know for sure.
The most tragic cases of vaccine injury occur when vaccine reaction symptoms are dismissed as a 'coincidence" and more vaccines are given that result in more severe symptoms -- and sometimes end with permanent brain and immune system damage or death.
But while Americans are still debating whether to roll up their sleeves for a swine flu shot, companies have already figured it out: vaccines are good for business.
Drug companies have sold $1.5 billion worth of swine flu shots, in addition to the $1 billion for seasonal flu they booked earlier this year. These inoculations are part of a much wider and rapidly growing $20 billion global vaccine market.
"The vaccine market is booming," says Bruce Carlson, spokesperson at market research firm Kalorama, which publishes an annual survey of the vaccine industry. "It's an enormous growth area for pharmaceuticals at a time when other areas are not doing so well," he says, noting that the pipeline for more traditional blockbuster drugs such as Lipitor and Nexium has thinned.
As always with pandemic flus, taxpayers are footing the $1.5 billion check for the 250 million swine flu vaccines that the government has ordered so far and will be distributing free to doctors, pharmacies and schools. In addition, Congress has set aside more than $10 billion this year to research flu viruses, monitor H1N1's progress and educate the public about prevention.
Drugmakers pocket most of the revenues from flu sales, with Sanofi-Pasteur, Glaxo Smith Kline and Novartis cornering most of the market.
But some say it's not just drugmakers who stand to benefit. Doctors collect copayments for special office visits to inject shots, and there have been assertions that these doctors actually profit handsomely from these vaccinations.
Photo credit: AP / Sue Ogrocki, The Sacramento Bee October 12, 2009