H1N1 Antivax Paranoia

All my illusions that Canada is free of anti-vaccination zealots (antivaxxers) disappeared this week as the H1N1 vaccine was approved in Canada. After starting an H1N1 information page on Facebook (please join) it’s been an ongoing challenge to respond to the antivaccine comments – comments that are incorrect and often deliberately misleading. This is quite time consuming, so my schedule for posts on this blog has been delayed.

I’ve also been blogging at the new SkepticNorth blog on topics that aren’t purely pharmacy related. This week I blogged about the role of naturopaths in the Canadian healthcare system, as well as quackery on campus (U of T, I’m looking at you). So please check out those posts. And please follow the SkepticNorth blog – I’m one of a number of bloggers covering Canadian topics. We appreciate your support.

Back to H1N1, here’s a few credible resources that I highly recommend you consult. If you are a science-based health professional, I’m asking you to roll up your sleeves…get the vaccine, and then help correct the misinformation that’s spreading on the web.

Blogs to follow:

Science-Based Medicine – superb posts, virtually every anti-vax argument is debunked here

Effect Measure – blog written by public health scientists, covers the reality of the pandemic in detail

Other important resources:

Public Health Agency of Canada – for Canadian info, including weekly H1N1 updates

Centers for Disease Control – the American source of H1N1 information

Canadian Immunization Guidelines – outlines in detail the rationale for vaccines, the safety monitoring process, and more.

Consumer Reports Swine Flu Information page – details the variety of swine flu scams out there

Public Health Agency of Canada’s Guidance on the H1N1 Vaccine – for health professionals, details the proper use of the Canadian vaccine.

War on Science – A fantastic series that appeared in Wired magazine that details how anti-science, anti-vaccine sentiment is hurting us all.

I’m asking all of you to speak up for science and reason. Address antivaccination comments and emails with redirection to reputable sources of information. Don’t forward paranoid emails about swine flu or the vaccine. Don’t recommend ineffective or unproven therapies. Call out fearmongering when you see it. This is going to be a long flu season – let’s fight it with science, not paranoia.

Cold-fX: More Hype than Hope for Colds and the Flu


Cold and flu season is in full swing here in Canada, and we’re all trying to avoid catching something, and recover faster if we’re already sick. Supported by endorsements from Canadian celebrities, and a recently announced tie-in with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the biggest selling cold product in Canada is Cold-fX, manufactured by Edmonton-based Afexa Life Sciences. If it’s not already in a pharmacy near you, it will be soon.

What is Cold-fX?

American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) has been used medicinally for centuries, most commonly as an “adaptogen” where it was and is still believed to be effective for everything from anemia to AIDS to impotence and even cancer. [1] Few uses have been evaluated scientifically, and when studied, ginseng has not been demonstrated to be conclusively effective for any medicinal use. [1] [2]

Colds can be caused by one of hundreds of viruses. In general, adults get 4-6 colds per year.  There are few effective treatments for colds, with most products simply relieving symptoms, without affecting the duration of the cold. Influenza (the flu) is caused by one of three influenza viruses (A, B, or C). Influenza can cause much more serious infections than colds, especially in the very young, the very old, and other high-risk individuals.  Both colds and flu are easily transmitted by hand contact or by inhalation. Both cause a cascade of immune reactions in response to an infection.  Headache, fever, fatigue, congestion, cough, and sore throat are all common symptoms.

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