More from Paul Offit on the flu vaccine

Flu VaccineOn Monday, NPR’s Talk of the Nation interviewed Dr. Paul Offit, author of Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure. about the swine flu vaccine.

Dr. Offit was a guest as result of his recent New York Times op-ed (see our post from Monday). The show took questions for Dr. Offit from listeners including this one:

And here’s an email from Lisa Ann(ph) in San Mateo. I’ve only had one flu shot in my life, and immediately afterwards, I was the sickest I’ve ever been in my life. I’m an extremely healthy person. When I do catch cold symptoms, I’m able to fight them off with vitamins before I get really sick. Is it really necessary for me to get the shot? I have a feeling it’s going to make me sick.

Dr. OFFIT: Right. You know, and this is a story that you occasionally hear. It’s, you know, we give our flu vaccines in the winter. That’s when a lot of other viruses, including, you know, flu viruses are circulating. And the question is, you know, can the flu vaccine cause flu? The answer to that question is clearly no.

I mean, the vaccine is – it comes in two forms. One is as a shot, in which case the virus is completely inactivated with a chemical, so it can’t possibly reproduce itself and cause respiratory symptoms. The second vaccine is a so-called nasal spray vaccine, which is a highly weakened form of a natural virus which can’t possibly grow at body temperature, therefore it can’t possibly reproduce itself in the lungs and cause illness. So I think those things are coincidental, but obviously those anecdotes are very powerful and influential for many people.

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