Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.
Get your flu shot. Never, perhaps, has that advice been as important for older adults to act on as this year. As winter approaches, geriatricians and infectious disease experts are increasingly concerned about the effects of even a mild flu season on an already-vulnerable older adult population, especially those in long-term care facilities.
Godlee says that researchers updating their Cochrane review of the drug “failedto verify claims, based on an analysis of 10 drug company trials,that oseltamivir reduced the risk of complications in healthyadults with influenza. These claims have formed a key part ofdecisions to stockpile the drug and make it widely available.”
Only after Roche was questioned by the BMJ and Channel 4 Newsdid the manufacturer commit to making “full study reports”available. Godlee says that some questions remain, including how patients were recruitedand why some neuropsychiatric adverse events were not reported.
Godlee argues that “it can’t be right that the public should have to rely on detective work by academics and journalists to patch together the evidence for such a widely prescribed drug,” saying that “Individual patient data from all trials of drugs should be readily available for scientific scrutiny.”
One of the creative commons licensed shots of H1N1 street art spotlighted by fluportal.org. Photo by Brazilian artist guitavares via Flickr.
Fluportal also has tackled some media ethics issues related to the outbreak, notably in a post where staff from PRI’s The World had to consider how to frame the German medical establishment’s reluctance to recommend the H1N1 vaccine. After all, they did not want to confuse listeners or have a negative impact on public health, but they also weren’t going to “censor” the sincere opinions of German doctors, even if they conflicted with CDC advice.
On a national scale, the HHS-maintained flu.gov has an updated list of the number of doses of H1N1 vaccine that have been shipped to states, territories and regions thus far. And for your readers or viewers who are trying to get the shots, Google has a flu shot finder map for both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines.
NPR’s health editors, Joe Neel and Anne Gudenkauf, teamed up with Dr. Andrew Pekosz and Dr. William Schaffner to tackle your questions.
Pekosz is an expert on viruses and immunology and a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Schaffner is an infectious disease expert and professor at Vanderbilt University.
They answer questions like “Do H1N1 and other flu vaccines work?”; “Are they dangerous?”; “Who’s immune?”; “Should I be vaccinated for both H1N1 and typical seasonal flu?” and more.