Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Reporter's Notebook

Paul Leonard can be reached

Shot or no shot?

With concerns about the H1N1 virus growing, the CDC and many other health organizations are encouraging people to get vaccinated for both the seasonal flu and H1N1, as soon as the vaccine for the new strain becomes available.

Some places have gone even farther – such as my home state of New York, which last month made H1N1 vaccination compulsory not only for hospital employees, but employees of companies doing business with them as well.

However, there are medical practitioners who believe lining up for either flu jab this year isn’t such a good idea.

Take Harley Youngblood, a registered nurse, doctor of chiropractic and owner of Family Chiropractic in Salmon Creek. Youngblood says that even though U.S. flu vaccination rates have risen over the last few decades, the death rate has not decreased. “Flu shots are pretty ineffective,” he said.

Youngblood is also concerned about the possible adverse effects of flu vaccinations – in particular the as-yet-unreleased H1N1 vaccine, which he said may contain an organic compound called squalene. According to Youngblood, the chemical could lead to joint and neurological problems later in life. However, the CDC says it does not plan to include the compound in its H1N1 vaccine.

In terms of the efficacy and safety of flu vaccinations, Youngblood is in the minority among health professionals, many of whom believe the benefits of the shots far outweigh any real or perceived negative effects.

Gov. Chris Gregoire (D-Wash.) today announced $5.56 million in federal grants to buy vaccines for children in the hopes of boosting immunization rates.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family from seasonal flu. Because this year’s flu season is complicated by the spread of H1N1 flu, we strongly urge everyone to get a seasonal flu shot early as a way to minimize illness in our community,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, health officer for Clark, Cowlitz, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties on the Wash. Region IV Public Health Dept. website.

For more on Southwest Washington businesses gearing up for flu season, check out the Oct. 2 edition of the VBJ.

Jodie Gilmore contributed to this column.