Dr Crippen: Just don't try giving me the swine flu vaccine
The government's chief commissar for immunisations, Professor David Salisbury, has said that nurses have a "duty" to be immunised against swine flu. A poll by nursingtimes.net showed that 30% of respondents would refuse to have it. If the government is surprised at the number of nurses who will not have the immunisation, just wait to see what happens when they offer it to doctors. On the facts available to date, I will not be having it. Nor will my family. I will not be the only doctor taking this view.
In 1976, after a swine flu outbreak at Fort Dix in the US, a vaccine was hastily manufactured. It had to be withdrawn a few weeks later as it was causing serious neurological problems. Science has moved on since then, you may say. That could not happen now. But, if governments have confidence in the safety of the vaccine, why has Kathleen Sebelius, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, felt it necessary to sign a document making federal officials and vaccine makers immune from lawsuits related to any ill-effects from the vaccine? Why has the UK government sent letters to neurologists asking them to be on the alert for neurological complications caused by the immunisation?
I did trust the government when it introduced an emergency vaccination programme for smallpox. But smallpox was a deadly disease and the vaccination was tried, tested and proven. The swine flu immunisation is being rushed out. It is of uncertain efficacy. It is to be given to prevent a disease which, as yet, is mild. The second wave of swine flu may be worse. I do not know. But I do know that, if the virus mutates to a more virulent form, the immunisation may in any case not work. We are in the run-up to an election. The government has to be seen to be doing something.
Every year, like obedient sheep, thousands troop into their local health centre to have a "flu immunisation". You may have had one last year. Did it work? I am amazed that there has not been a public outcry of people saying, "Excuse me, I had a flu jab last year and I still got swine flu."
Millions of trusting citizens may have the new swine flu immunisation. If something goes wrong, as it did at Fort Dix, we could have a major medical disaster.
Dr Crippen is the pseudonym for a long-serving GP. Every week he will bring us a first-hand account of what's really happening in the NHS.