Are You Hankering for a Swine Flu Vaccine?

By Michael W. Smith, MD

Within days of hearing about the swine flu outbreak, people started asking, "What about a swine flu vaccine?" And I'd bet that many Americans were ready to take the shot right then and there.

I wish people were so eager during the regular flu season. If they were, maybe fewer people would get infected -- and we'd see fewer deaths from the seasonal flu. As it is, about 36,000 people die every year from the flu.

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And before you get ready to stand in line next week for the swine flu vaccine, the CDC says a swine flu vaccine won't be ready for about 6 months -- and that's if they decide to ask manufacturers to develop a vaccine against this strain. It's really going to depend on how this outbreak plays out.

The 1976 swine flu outbreak is good evidence why we shouldn't try to speed up the process. Our lives may just be at risk.

In that swine flu outbreak, one person died from the actual swine flu. However, 32 people died from the quickly-developed vaccine and another 500 people developed paralysis from Guillain-Barre syndrome, a usually very rare complication of the flu vaccine.

Regardless of what happens with the current swine flu outbreak, a vaccine isn't going to have any impact for at least several months. So, don't ease up on your flu prevention efforts.

The good news is that the outbreak seems to be calming down a bit -- or maybe it's just the hysteria that is easing off. No, we're not out of the woods completely, but time appears to be telling us that this swine flu outbreak is not likely to be one to kill scores of people. As of yesterday, there were 2 swine flu deaths in the U.S.

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