Vaccinations 101

Vaccines | | October 8, 2009 at 5:00 am
Photo by Andres Rueda

Photo by Andres Rueda.

The H1N1 virus has led to the death of 28 pregnant women and 60 children in the U.S. so it’s no wonder the topic of vaccination is on everyone’s mind. This year’s influenza is virulent and should be considered a serious threat.

How the vaccine works

The influenza vaccine, which includes the H1N1 vaccine is made on an annual basis. Because the influenza virus changes every year, research immunologists and physicians must stay one step ahead of these mutations. The vaccine only works when the strains of the vaccine match the circulating infective strains, which isn’t always the case.

Hidden ingredients: mercury

Some preparations of vaccines contain thimerosal, a vaccine preservative that contains mercury. This mercury compound inhibits the growth of bacteria and fungi in multi-dose vaccine vials.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) both recommend that children and pregnant women avoid neurotoxic mercury from the environment and from food. In 2001, the FDA has eliminated or reduced to trace amounts the thimerosal found in vaccines for children under 6 years old.  There will be a limited number of special thimerosal-free influenza vaccine doses available for children and pregnant women.  Ask your doctor for the thimerosal-free vaccines.

Intra-nasal vaccines

There is also a thimerosal-free H1N1 influenza vaccine that is intra-nasally applied (FluMist). This form of the vaccine is a live attenuated virus. The H1N1 virus is genetically weakened which reduces the chances of causing an illness. Since this form of vaccines contains a live attenuated virus, it cannot be administered to children under 2 years old, asthmatic children under 5 years old, and immunocompromised people, and people over 49 years old.  This form of the H1N1 vaccine has not been tested on pregnant women and the manufacturer recommends to use it, “only if clearly needed.”

Pregnant women and caregivers

After we are born, the immune system takes over a year to fully develop. Before this time, infants are somewhat protected by passive immunity’s immunoglobulins from the mother via the placenta and breast milk. Breast milk is therefore critical to the health of a newborn. The CDC recommends that since children under 6 months of age cannot get the H1N1 vaccine, caregivers and pregnant women should get the H1N1 vaccination.

More secret ingredients

Adjuvants are additives in some types of vaccines that help make it more likely that the vaccine will stimulate the immune system. Common adjuvants are aluminum salts and squalene. The aluminum salt adjuvant is approved for use by the CDC and found in the following vaccines: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTaP, Tdap), Haemopilus influenzae type b (Hib), human papillomavirus (HPV) and pneumococcus infection. No seasonal influenza (including the H1N1) contain adjuvants.

Talk to your doctor

According the the U.S. government, “The decision to get vaccinated is up to each individual.” When making an informed decision about vaccination it is always necessary to include your family’s physician in the conversation. And hopefully this post will help you ask your physician more questions!

Further reading

The Center for Disease Control’s website has information for

My fellow WellWire contributor Christine Dionese has a great post on her Integrative Approach to Healing Blog about the Swine Flu Vaccine.

Beyond vaccination, here are some preventative tips to stay healthy this flu season. Be well!

GibranDr. Gibran Ramos completed his six year training and internship in Naturopathic and Chinese Medicine at National College of Natural Medicine. Dr. Ramos helps patients transform their lives and optimize their well-being at a private practice in Portland, Oregon.


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1 Comment

  1. Amy says:

    Great post, Gibran – I’m so glad to see more information on the vaccines for this year. Thank you for educating us all!