January 13, 2006

While We Are On The Subject Of Flu Shots

It is nice to see that this Doc is taking seriously the possibility that her condition is a flu shot side effect. I have a friend that three years ago contracted Gulliam Barre (an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the nervious system) and was paralized from head to toe. It took her more than a year to become mobile again. Only this year did it occur to me to ask her if she had gotten the flu shot before the onset. She had, 5 weeks before, and was told by her doctors that it was likely the cause. (I was the first to tell her about the Vaccine Injury Compensation Fund)

We know not everyone can be vaccinated, just like we know not everyone can take antibiotics or even eat peanuts. So my question is this. Why are we not figuring out a way to screen for those who may have life threatening or crippling illnesses as a result of vaccinating? Seems to me we should be able to evaluate the individual's immune system to look for warning signs as to when a horrible autoimmune disorder is a greater threat to someone than the flu.

I am sure it all comes down to money.

Officials may document possibility of rare flu-shot reaction
Friday, January 13, 2006
rparker@kalamazoogazette.com 388-2734

A 10-year-old Plainwell girl is fighting her way back from a coma while an anxious community prays for her recovery.

No one knows what caused Claudia Klein to develop a rare bleeding disorder about a month after she received a routine influenza vaccine Nov. 9.

Despite the uncertainty about the cause of her illness, Kalamazoo county's health officer is considering including Claudia's case in the national tracking of adverse reactions to vaccines.

"I think that's a public-health responsibility," said Dr. Richard Tooker, medical officer of Allegan and Kalamazoo counties' health departments.

Claudia fell ill Dec. 8. with symptoms that mirrored those of leukemia, her father, Dan, said. "We were thrilled to hear it was ITP" -- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura -- a rare condition thought to be a misguided immune response that depletes the body's blood platelets. That illness, they were told, usually subsides with no lasting ill effects. ITP is extremely rare, and it is rarer still for the disease to reach the level of severity experienced by Claudia.

She failed to respond to aggressive treatment. Instead, her condition worsened, and on Dec. 16 she developed bleeding in her brain. Claudia underwent surgery and has been in the pediatric intensive-care unit at Bronson Methodist Hospital ever since. She is currently listed in good condition and is beginning to breathe without reliance on a ventilator.

The rare link between ITP and vaccines makes it important to consider documenting what happened to Claudia, Tooker said.

Because of the one-month interval between the vaccination and the onset of the ITP, Tooker said, he was not surprised "the pediatrician never even considered the connection until we brought it to his attention."

Tooker said he will discuss the case with colleagues, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and perhaps the vaccine manufacturer.

"If there have been other reports filed with a similar time frame, we will file one," Tooker said. "We may file one anyway just to be prudent."

"Insomuch as we know that pediatric ITP can be affiliated with viral infections, and the notion is, there's interplay between components of the viral infection and the immune system, it follows it is within the realm of possibility that a vaccine may have played a role in her condition."

"This in no way suggests the influenza vaccine is dangerous to anybody. If there were dozens or hundreds of reports of this happening, we would certainly revise our opinion of that, and that's exactly why we do surveillance as we do."

The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System is a voluntary tracking of reactions reported by physicians and does not suggest a cause-and-effect relationship, he said. An Internet search of the system's Web site showed that in 2004, there were nine cases of ITP following vaccinations (only one associated with influenza vaccine), and nine more in 2005, through Nov. 30. No cases were reported in Michigan.

Only by carefully documenting adverse reactions to a medication can scientists determine whether there are risks to certain populations.

"If there is a risk, we want to identify that as soon as possible and eliminate the risk," Tooker said.

"On the other hand, and more likely, if this is a coincidence, we want to dispel any inappropriate fear around a very safe vaccine.

"I think it's important in the early stages of this story being told and retold through word of mouth ... to make sure people are putting this in perspective and getting accurate information," he said.

Word of Claudia's condition has spread throughout her school and community.
"This has brought thousands of people together who have no connection other than Claudia," Dan said.

Tim Grinwis, Claudia's fifth-grade teacher at Gilkey Elementary School, has visited almost daily to read aloud to her and bring her news from school, since she is not up to classmate visits yet, and her mother e-mails news of Claudia's recovery.

In Plainwell, a sign on a local restaurant implores: "Pray for Claudia ."
On Christmas Eve a group of friends from Plainwell gathered on the hospital's heliport in a candlelight vigil, singing carols outside Claudia's room.

"People walking or driving by noticed the candles, and many joined them who didn't even know Claudia or the Kleins but felt so moved they joined right in," Grinwis said. In the end, more than 100 people were assembled.

"It's mind-boggling -- mind-boggling and absolutely humbling," Dan said. "You find out in a hurry the capacity of people, and what community means. And the Bronson Pediatric Intensive Care Unit staff has been compassionate and amazing. They've been our family for a month up there.

"A very rare thing happened to my beautiful daughter. In no way does the family feel the flu shot was the definitive cause here, and it would be irresponsible to say so," given that the vaccinations help so many people.

The important message, Tooker said, is that, statistically, the overwhelming majority of ITP cases in children are triggered by actual viral illnesses.
"They flat out don't know" what prompted Claudia's illness, Dan Klein said. But he is adamant that what happened to his daughter should not prevent anyone from getting a flu shot.

"The reality is, my daughter ... won all the wrong lottos on this one," he said.

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