H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine: Adjuvanted Vs. Unadjuvanted
Two separate Swine Flu vaccines to confront the H1N1 pandemic are currently being made available through medical services around the world. However, the USA lags behind as it is only using unadjuvanted vaccines. What that means is that there are various chemical elements used in the adjuvanted vaccines like Arepanrix. Some of these adjuvants include squalene (a fish oil), vitamin E, and polysorbate 80 (to help keep the adjuvant and the vaccine particles well mixed).
The adjuvanted vaccines contain a smaller number of H1N1 flu particles because the squalene seems to boost the effect of the viral material that is in the vaccine. The squalene booster improves the human body's immune system response to the administration of the vaccine and this has a beneficial effect in two ways. First of all there are less viral particles being injected into your body, and second, there are more flu particles left over in the lab to make more doses of vaccine for more people!
One other factor that isn't mentioned very often is that adjuvanted vaccines tend to provide greater protection once the virus mutates after immunization. Unadjuvanted vaccines tend to be very specific for the virus they're intended for. As the virus mutates (and viruses mutate all the time) the unadjuvanted vaccine may end up not being a proper match for the virus in your body. And that's bad news.
If you want an adjuvanted vaccine, you need to go outside the United States as the government refuses to make those types of vaccines available. The American government has decided do rely exclusively on monovalent unadjuvanted vaccines from Novartis, Sanofi Pasteur and other manufacturers. However, one of the most popular worldwide unadjuvanted H1N1 vaccines is Panvax by Australian company CSL but it is not yet in mainstream use in the USA.
It seems that the American fears of adjuvanted vaccines may be pointless. Squalene based adjuvanted vaccines have been used in Europe and other countries for many years and there have never been significant health concerns noted in the medical literature. What I would be more concerned about is the thimerosal which is present in both adjuvanted vaccines like Arepanrix and the unadjuvanted ones like Panvax. This substance is added to the vaccine to prevent bacterial contamination before administration. Vaccine which has been contaminated by bacteria can lead to extremely serious infections.
Major clinical studies have not shown a link between thimerosal and health problems. However, once thimerosal is metabolized inside the body it breaks down into various chemical substances and one of them is ethyl mercury. Now unless you've been living on the dark side of the moon for the past half century you know that ingesting mercury is extremely hazardous.
For developing fetuses, along with children of all ages, the most significant adverse health effect of mercury is that it has been proven to impair many forms of normal neurological development. When a baby is exposed to mercury in the womb it can seriously deleteriously affect memory, cognitive thinking, language, attention, and both visual spatial and motor skills.
Now this presents a serious question for pregnant women. Would you rather expose your baby to mercury, or H1N1 swine flu? That is a decision that every mom to be needs to make once they have all the information. There is no doubt that the effects of the mercury in the thimerosal have been shown in the medical literature to be minimal if any. And the effects of H1N1 on pregnant women can be life threatening. The disease has already killed upwards of 6,000 Americans and although this second wave of influenza is clearly starting to fade, it's not over yet.
Personally (and I'm only speaking for myself) if I had to have the choice between and adjuvanted and an unadjuvanted vaccine I'd take the adjuvanted every time. Fewer viral particles floating around my bloodstream, and a better response to an ever-mutating virus. But the best choice (again for me and for me alone) is that I am not getting anywhere near any of the current crop of H1N1 swine flu vaccines. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll take my 1 in 50,000 chance of dying by the influenza virus rather than hazard some rushed-to-market mercury-laden concoction.