Of the world’s 193 recognized sovereign states, only Poland refused the H1N1 vaccine because of safety fears and distrust of the pharmaceutical companies producing the injections. The decision by Prime Minister Donald Tusk and Health Minister Ewa Kopacz had broad public support, even though Poland has reported 145 deaths from H1N1 flu as of mid-January. Poles saw the vaccine rejection as a praiseworthy act of defiance against pharmaceutical manufacturers, a sentiment bolstered by a growing anti-vaccine movement.
“We are making this decision only in the interest of the Polish patient and the taxpayer,” Tusk said. “We will not take part because it’s not honest and it’s not safe for the patient.” The anti-vaccine movement claims that the H1N1 inoculation is untested or contains unsafe ingredients, such as the preservative thimerosal. The World Health Organization disagrees and points out that more than 150 million people in 40 nations have been vaccinated and suffered no abnormal or dangerous reactions.
The lone Polish official to protest is Janusz Kochanowski, the ombudsman for civil rights, who calls the unavailability of the vaccine an unnecessary risk to the country’s health. Ironically, Kochanowski himself came down with H1N1 flu over Christmas. Poland’s response to the vaccine stands in sharp contrast to the United States, where President Barack Obama and his family were inoculated against H1N1 flu to set an example.
“The saving grace for Poland is that this swine flu pandemic is so far very mild. It would be a big scandal if this were a virus that would cause many deaths,” said Andrew McMichael, an immunologist and director of the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford.
Tags: Andrew McMichael, anti-vaccine movement, Donald Tusk, EU, Ewa Kopacz, H1N1, immuniologist, Oxford, pandemic, Poland, President Barack Obama, swine flu, thimerosal, vaccine, World Health Organization