Rumours concerning the H1N1 vaccine began circulating before it was even available. Suspicions surrounding the safety and risks associated with the vaccine have resulted in millions of people across the globe refusing to be inoculated.
One popular claim against the vaccine is that the mercury contained within it can cause rare, but serious, neurological side-effects.
Much of this reaction is a result of the perceived rapidness with which the vaccine was developed, said Nadia Alexan, founder of Citizens in Action in Montreal, a left-wing activist group.
“The vaccine was concocted very fast without testing,” she said. “People panic needlessly. But if you’re a healthy person, the possibility of dying from this virus is very rare.”
The first cases of H1N1, commonly known as the swine flu, were observed in Mexico. In June, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak to be a pandemic. The genome of this influenza strain was mapped the following month, at which point scientists8212;who every year study and adapt to new strains of influenza8212;set to work on a vaccine.
In August, the Government of Canada announced it would purchase 50.4 million doses of the vaccine at a cost of over $400 million.
Canadian-born documentary filmmaker Lina Moreco recently released Shots in the Dark, a film that explores dangers associated with vaccines.
In the film, Moreco analyzed the components of several vaccines8212; including that for H1N18212; and the side-effects some people have suffered following inoculation. “I have no problem with people taking the vaccine,” she said. “As long as there is a system to help those who are experiencing serious side-effects immediately.”
Moreco accused pharmaceutical companies of being driven by a goal to turn a profit. “This is fine,” she said. “But it’s nevertheless putting my health at risk.”
Despite the wide-spread scepticism surrounding the vaccine, Minister of Health Leona Aglukkaq has reassured Canadians, saying the vaccine is safe. The minister has publicly encouraged everybody to get the vaccine in order to help stop the spread of the pandemic.
There have been 6,768 H1N1-related deaths worldwide, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. In Canada, a total of 161 deaths have been attributed to the swine flu virus as of Nov. 12. Flu-related deaths are common every year.
In the United States alone, about 36,000 people die from flu-related illnesses every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
According to WHO, the flu accounts for 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide, resulting from three to five million severely infected individuals.