Flu Shot Side-Effects

I have been having “discussions” on Facebook about the merits of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine.  Often, those concerned about the vaccine send a message to the effect “Yeah what about this” and a link to one of the Desiree Jennings videos.  For example:

The videos describe her condition as dystonia and a one in a million adverse reaction to the flu vaccine. It is the tragic story of a beautiful cheerleader gravely incapacitated, and her life ruined by a flu vaccination.

While watching the videos there was a little voice in my head that was saying where did one in a million come from and why is it such a round number? How do they know it’s an adverse reaction to the flu shot and not some other cause?  Why is there only this one cheerleader if it is one in a million? Is the media just focusing on one sympathetic victim?  How do they know it is incurable?  Is this a typically adverse reaction or the worst one to occur?  Is this a typical example of vaccine-induced dystonia?

I resisted that little voice.  I thought responding that way on Facebook would seem petty and uncaring.  Neurological disorders are not an area where I have expertise.  The better response seemed to be to accept the one in a million chance of an adverse reaction and argue that it is an extremely rare side-effect.

Today in his Neurologic blog, Dr. Steven Novella posted a detailed article about Desiree Jennings. Dr. Novella is a neurologist who teaches at Yale University School of Medicine.  In his post he discusses some of the issues that I had.  For example, where the one in a million number came from.

He is also in a position to evaluate the symptoms that Desiree Jennings presents in the videos.  In his opinion and that of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation her symptoms are not consistent with a diagnosis of Dystonia.

The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation stated that:

Because of the concern of individuals with dystonia as to whether or not to get a flu shot because of this reported case, we have sought the opinion of dystonia experts on this case. Based on the footage that has been shared with the public, it is their unanimous consensus that this case does not appear to be dystonia.

Dr. Novella went on to state that:

Her speech and movement are, however, very suggestive of a psychogenic disorder.

In other words she may have  a very real and uncontrollable disorder that is psychological rather than physical in nature.

This is good news. If Dr. Novella and others are correct, this is not an incurable neurological disorder and there can be optimism that eventually Ms. Jennings will recover from her symptoms.

In the mean time however, she has become a poster child of the anti-vaccine movement.


One Response to “Flu Shot Side-Effects”

  1. […] Flu Shot Side Effects – How do they know it an adverse reaction to the flu shot and not some other cause? Why is there only this one Cheerleader if it is one in a… (No Ratings Yet)  Loading … […]

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