A flier posted on the Shop'n Kart community board reads: "Swine Flu vaccine is poisonous!" It then details various poisonous ingredients allegedly in the vaccine, the possible side effects and how the vaccine was tested without the ingredients in a classic case of "bait and switch."
It's postings like this that worry health care professionals such as Peg Crowley, director of the Community Health Clinic in Medford.
"There is so much misinformation and scare tactics out there," Crowley said. "This misinformation may cost somebody their life." Doubts about the safety of the H1N1 — "swine flu" — vaccination are increasing throughout the United States. Protests have been reported at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll shows an increase in the number of people who say they will not get the immunization either for themselves or their children.
The poll reported that 40 percent of parents in the United States do not plan to let their children receive the vaccination. Concerns about its safety are "overwhelmingly cited as the chief reason."
Customers at Shop'n Kart willing to speak on the issue said they would not use the vaccine, citing reasons of their own along with those mentioned on the posting.
Ashland resident David Witt, father of a third-grade student at John Muir School, a K-8 magnet school in Ashland, said side effects are a concern and that he is also leery about most vaccinations.
"It's kind of the same for me with all immunizations, except for tetanus," Witt said. "A healthy body is able to build up its own antibodies."
Jason Houk, father of three children, two of whom attend Ashland schools, said he opposes use of the H1N1 vaccine, even though it goes against his normal philosophy.
"It's just a gut instinct, even though I know better," Houk said. "I believe in immunizations. I just don't believe in this shot."
Dr. Jim Shames, health officer for Jackson and Josephine counties, said claims on the local posting are misleading.
"The flu strain is different, but the vaccine is familiar," Shames said. "This vaccine has been created and tested the same way as the seasonal flu vaccine."
Shames added that the vaccine was developed in chicken eggs in the same manner as the seasonal flu vaccine and many others.
The biggest issue with the vaccine is not what's in it, he said, but its lack of availability. Shames said there is much less vaccine than anticipated, and it should be available to high-risk groups in Ashland within the next two weeks.
According to Shames, the U.S. chose not to use adjuvants in the vaccine, so the concerns listed on the posting are not valid in the U.S. Adjuvants are used to make the vaccine more potent, so less needs to be used. Canada is using adjuvants in its vaccine.
Shames also debunked claims on the poster that vaccinations would be mandatory and that tests would be required to ensure compliance.
Ashland is no stranger to immunization controversy. In 2008, the city gained national media attention because an unusually high percentage of parents sought school waivers so their children would not have to be immunized against measles, mumps and diphtheria. USA Today reported Ashland's exemption rate for mandatory school vaccinations at 28 percent, nearly 12 times the national average.
Crowley said individuals can do their own research online to determine if they are comfortable with the vaccine.
"This is a well-tested vaccine," Crowley said, "but you need to do the research yourself and make your own conclusion."
Crowley said those with doubts should visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/swineflu in order to make their own educated decision. Information on local issues concerning the vaccination can be obtained by calling Jackson County Public Health Services at 774-8209.
The anti-immunization poster suggests visiting www.russellblaylockmd.com. Russell Blaylock is a Louisiana State University-educated neurosurgeon who is currently a visiting professor in the department of biological studies at Belhaven College in Jackson, Miss.