H1N1 researcher, ICU doctor urges students to get vaccinated

A prominent doctor behind an H1N1 study says people who choose not to get the vaccination are “idiots.”

“I think you’d have to be an idiot not to take the vaccine,” said Dr. Anand Kumar in a telephone interview from Winnipeg.

Kumar is an intensivist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority and an associate professor of critical care and infectious disease at the University of Manitoba.

“I think you are badly misinformed or you’re not real bright if you’re not getting the vaccine,” said Kumar, who has received the shot, as have his four children.

Kumar is the corresponding author of H1N1 research published Oct. 12 that made headlines from Halifax to Vancouver.

The study, by members of the Canadian Critical Care Trials group, revealed that a portion of severe H1N1 infections are occurring among previously healthy teens and young adults, a pattern which was last seen in 1918 with the Spanish flu.

“The fact that young people have been hit in this is pandemic is not a surprise,” said Kumar.

“But to see young people die is very unusual.”

The research also called females higher propensity to develop severe H1N1 infection than males “striking.”

Kumar said the research essentially shows that 66 per cent of flu victims were female, while 33 per cent were male.

“This is not what people are used to, they keep thinking this is the old flu but it’s not. It’s something different,” said Kumar.

He said his strong feelings about the vaccination come from hours spent working in the ICU with H1N1 patients.

“I’m not talking as a researcher,” said Kumar.

“I’m talking as a clinician whose spent a lot of time trying to save lives of some very young people struggling for their lives in the ICU.”

Despite the surprising research, Kumar said people should not be too concerned about the flu that has dominated headlines in recent weeks.

“I don’t think it’s something to fear. If you are smart, you prepare for it,” he said.

“It seemed to take the death of one healthy young kid to galvanize people’s attention and two weeks later, everyone is rushing to get [the vaccination].”

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