Two speakers billed as vaccination awareness experts began a tour in Alberta this week — a tour that concerns an infectious disease expert who says attendees might get incomplete information about flu shots.
The speakers, Mary Tocco and Dr. Andrew Moulden, are charging $25 at the door for their appearances in Grande Prairie, Red Deer, Edmonton and Calgary.
In addition to newspaper advertisements promoting their talks, there is also an email circulating that suggests people need to "discover the truth" about vaccines, including the swine flu or H1N1 vaccine.
Free flu shots
Alberta is currently offering free seasonal flu shots, but health officials are expected to announced Wednesday afternoon their plans for delivering a H1N1 flu shot.
Calgary flu clinics
- Avenida Village, 303-12445 Lake Fraser Dr. S.E.
- Brentwood Village Mall, 302-3630 Brentwood Rd. N.W.
- EMS Whitehorn, north side entrance, 100-305 35th St. N.E.
- Richmond Road diagnostic treatment centre, 1820 Richmond Rd. S.W.
Open on drop-in basis Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
According to the email, Moulden — who has a PhD in neuroscience —claims his research shows vaccine ingredients cause neurological damage, auto-immune disorders, and degenerative conditions. Tocco is billed as an "independent vaccine investigator" with 30 years experience.
Kathy Czar, a cattle rancher who lives in Hanna, Alta., said she will attend at least one of the talks. She has been doing her own research and has decided not to get influenza vaccines.
"The whole thing of putting something in your bloodstream directly with a needle … it really opened that door for me that this is not the way to go," she said.
"The best defence, they keep saying, is vaccination and that's bologna. The best defence is a healthy immune system, a healthy diet, and a healthy balance of the right minerals and vitamins."
Benefits of vaccine far outweigh risks: expert
The speaking tour concerns Glen Armstrong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Calgary. He agrees everyone should be well-informed about possible side effects of getting a H1N1 shot, but said there is only a minute chance anything negative will happen.
"Clearly with the data that we have, the accumulated data that we have, it shows the benefit of becoming vaccinated with the H1N1 flu vaccine far, far, far outweighs the risks of an adverse reaction from the vaccines."
Some Albertans seem ready to spend money on alternatives to free flu shots.
In a Calgary organic food shop, Sheryl Jeffrey said 20 to 30 people a day are asking for products that will naturally boost their immunity.
"This year is off the charts. They want to know they can protect themselves and their family against the flu," she said.
Jeffrey recommends several products to her customers, including oregano oil, elderberries, and vitamin D3 supplements. She also tells shoppers that eating right, getting enough sleep, and washing hands regularly is key.
While staying healthy will help people recover from the virus, Armstrong said it won't prevent them from getting sick in the first place.
"That's all good and it helps if you do get sick, but it's not 100 per cent sure that's going to prevent you from getting sick, whereas the vaccine is a much better way of protecting yourself and preventing yourself from getting sick."