Is The H1N1 Flu Vaccine Going To Give Me Gulf War Syndrome?


Photo credit: alvi2047 via Flickr

No, this isn't another article about mercury in vaccines, it is also not about vaccines causing autism, nor is it about vaccines not being vegan. This article is about an entirely different argument against vaccines that has surfaced in the international media and on conspiracy theory websites (which I won't legitimize by providing a link, but Google will help you find them if you are curious).

What Is Squalene?

This article is about an immunological adjuvant called Squalene. What is an adjuvant? Well, it is an additive used in vaccines that stimulates your immune system and increases your immunological response to the vaccine. Squalene is a "natural organic compound" that comes from shark liver oil or vegetable oils. Squalene is even naturally occurring in humans and vital part of the synthesis of cholesterol and vitamin D. According to Anthrax vaccine expert Meryl Nass, M.D. "a novel feature of the two H1N1 vaccines being developed by companies Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline is the addition of squalene-containing adjuvants to boost immunogenicity and dramatically reduce the amount of viral antigen needed. This translates to much faster production of desired vaccine quantities."

Why May Squalene Be Bad For Me?

Squalene has been shown in studies to promote anti-squalene antibodies that would presumably attack the body's naturally occurring squalene. During a hearing of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs, and International Relations Robert F. Garry, P.h.D. from the Tulane Medical School's Department of Microbiology and Immunology said "our published research makes a compelling case that, first, anti-squalene antibodies exist, and second, that there is a link between the antibodies and Gulf War illness." The reference section of the hearing transcript also states that "in the people studied, the presence of the antibodies correlated very closely with the presence of the symptoms of Gulf War illness both in personnel who had been deployed to the Persian Gulf theater and in personnel who had not been deployed there."

Thinking About Avoiding The Vaccine?: Read On

In response to several studies attempting to associate squalene adjuvants with Gulf War Syndrome the World Health Organization (WHO) has made the following statements, which is also supported by published studies:
  • A few people have tried to link the health problems of Gulf War veterans to the possible presence of squalene in the vaccines these soldiers received.
  • One published report suggested that some veterans who received anthrax vaccines developed anti-squalene antibodies and these antibodies caused disabilities.
  • It is now known that squalene was not added to the vaccines administered to these veterans, and technical deficiencies in the report suggesting an association have been published.
As a firm believer in the precautionary principle I believe that the government should not allow the use any chemical without proper testing. Instead, it appears that this adjuvant is being allowed for the H1N1 pandemic because it allows the limited vaccine doses to immunize more people. In the end, you and your doctor know what's best for you.

How Bad Is The H1N1 Flu In Your Area?

Google.org has a new feature that tracks influenza trends around the world. Check out the infection rate in your country or state here.Pablo Päster is a weekly columnist for TreeHugger.com, an experienced greenhouse gas engineer and the Senior Environmental Program Manager at Hara Software. Send your questions to Pablo(at)TreeHugger.com or submit them here and connect to his RSS feed.
More Information On Squalene:
WHO: Squalene-based adjuvants in vaccines
Wikipedia: Squalene
CDC: Vaccine Safety: Adjuvants

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