Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The decision to vaccinate is a personal one. Do your own research and weigh the side effects and disease risks against the benefits of the vaccine. Keep in mind that those who are immuno-compromised, weak or frail are in a higher risk group than healthy young and middle aged adults. The authors of this NY Time's Op-Ed piece contend that clinical studies are showing that women produce as many antibodies to half the dose of flu vaccine that men do at the full dose, and that the rule holds up for other diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis A & B and herpes simplex. If women were given a lower dose they might suffer fewer side effects than they do at the higher dose. In the case of H1N1, where there is a shortage of the vaccine, giving women a lower dose, the authors argue, would make the limited quantities of vaccine available for more people.
Drugs are usually only tested on men age 18-45 before they are given FDA approval. Ethically the drug companies can't give a new drug that much about the potential side effects are unknown to higher risk groups. These groups include women in their reproductive years because if they were to become pregnant while taking the drug, the drug may have detrimental effects on the fetus. Children, older adults and seniors have weaker immune systems to which an unknown drug could potentially cause harm. This means that most drugs are not tested on children, elderly or women before they are released onto the public. For this reason, I do not recommend using a new drug unless it is the only alternative. It has only been tested in a small group of men, and there are a lot of unknowns about it. KB
Here's the NY Time's piece on flu shot dosing for women: