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This is a controversial issue and I'm not necessarily convinced either way, but thought sushis and possibly others on my friends list might be interested in what Dr. Ben Kim has to say about the H1N1 vaccine.

A few months ago, just before the frenzy over everything H1N1 started bubbling out of control, I told a colleague that I didn't want to write or talk about this virus or its vaccine.

I didn't want to contribute to the power of this story in any way. If anything, I wanted to encourage people who follow our site to ignore all stories headlined by H1N1 and continue to focus on things that matter most in their lives, things that bring them fulfillment. Because I firmly believe that the majority of government and health care workers who are promoting the H1N1 vaccine are misguided. And I also believe that getting caught up in all of the panic and hype surrounding H1N1 is a good way to get sick.

With letters pouring in daily with questions on H1N1, it's become impossible for me to avoid this monster of a story.

Just last night, the Greater Toronto Area's most popular newspaper, The Toronto Star boldly declared: "H1N1 clinics to open early in wake of teen's death."

Every death is sad and humbling. I don't wish to trivialize death or flippantly throw out statistics on people who have died from this and that to support my opinions on H1N1.

I also don't wish to tell others what to do with their lives. If someone asks me if I think it's a good idea to get a flu shot, I'll say no and explain why. But I don't go out of my way to tell people what to do.

A number of people - a lot of nurses, I've noticed - have called me a dumb ass or something in the same vein for not shooting myself up with the H1N1 vaccine, and for possibly steering others to do the same.

By far the most common line of thought that angry e-mailers bring up is that there are so many thousands of deaths due to the flu each year - am I willing to publicly share my opinion on flu shots and have deaths on my conscience if people choose not to vaccinate because of my stance?

Whoa...hold up there. Wait just a sec, eh? If you're leaning towards accepting a flu shot because "thousands of people die from the flu every year," I encourage you to take a moment to consider how accurate such a statement is.

When I hear or read about thousands of people dying from the flu - one of the H1N1 strains or any other strain of influenza - here are the questions that pop up in my head:

How do we know that these deaths were definitely caused by a virus that causes the flu?

How exactly do health officials go about establishing cause of death?

What was the health status and medical history of each person who was classified to have died from the flu? Who compiled this information and how comprehensive was each report?

I think these questions naturally come up in my mind because I've long been disturbed by the way government and health officials inaccurately attribute deaths to various causes.

An obvious example is death by cancer. How many of the millions of people who have been classified as having died from cancer actually died from one or more of the following:

Radiation treatments
Decades of poor food choices
Decades of poor lifestyle choices i.e. lack of sleep, lack of exercise, ongoing exposure to prescription and recreational drugs
My educated guess is that the percentage is quite high. That is, a large number of people who "died from cancer" actually died from one or more of the causes listed above.

How about the number of people who die each year from cardiovascular disease. It's in the millions, and it's growing every year. Did the millions of people who died from cardiovascular disease last year really die from cardiovascular disease?

Or is it more accurate to say that some or all of these folks passed on because of many years of poor dietary choices, emotional stress, a genetic predisposition to developing clogged arteries, toxic burden from years of prescription and recreational drug use, or some combination of these factors? Did some of these millions of people who "died from cardiovascular disease" actually die from the impact of anesthesia, having their chest walls opened up, and having a bunch of hands and tools working away at their heart and blood vessels?

I'm not suggesting that poor dietary and lifestyle choices, prescription and recreational drugs, chemotherapy, radiation, and invasive surgeries are definitive causes of death. Not at all. I'm trying to point out that "cause of death" is a blurry entity.

When a bullet rips through a person's heart or a major blood vessel and that person bleeds to death within a minute or two, then the cause of death is without question, massive bleeding due to a gun shot wound.

But when I hear people make statements like "thousands of deaths due to the flu each year," or "one thousand deaths due to H1N1 in the U.S. so far," my mind says hold up now, let's think about that.

And as I think about it, the question that comes up is this: How does a virus that meets a large group of people cause a relatively quick death in a minute percentage of that population, a temporary respiratory infection in a portion of that population, and no symptoms to speak of in the rest of that population?

I keep wondering: Does anyone really know for sure what those "thousands of people who died from the flu" really died from? Did health officials carefully consider health status before demise, medical history, and underlying immune system strength for each of these people? And quite importantly, did any of these people who "died from the flu" receive a flu vaccine before they died?

I don't have answers to these questions and I'm pretty sure that no one else does either.

So for me, common sense dictates that regardless of how strong or virulent this year's H1N1 strains are, my best course of action is the same as it's always been: It's to eat and live in a way that keeps my immune system as strong as possible.

And eating and living in a way that keeps my immune system as strong as possible includes saying no thanks to injections of chemicals that can injure human cells.

My understanding is that the H1N1 vaccines that are being rolled out all over the world differ from country to country, as each country chooses which pharmaceutical giant they would like to have produce their H1N1 vaccine. And as far as I can tell, all of the H1N1 vaccines that have been produced thus far contain thimerosal, a preservative that's about 49% mercury by weight.

Because I just don't believe that healthy people who have access to clean food, clean water, and good sanitation systems can easily die from the H1N1 strains that are reportedly making rounds throughout the world, I don't think it's worth the risk to inject myself or my children with any amount of thimerosal, even if the amount is "less than the amount of mercury in a can of tuna."

What about the elderly, newborns, and people who are undernourished and possibly immune deficient? Contrary to popular belief, I strongly believe that these are the groups of people that can least afford to experience the toxic burden that comes with getting injected by thimerosal and other synthetic chemicals. It's true that these groups of people are at greater risk of experiencing colds and flus, but I fail to see how increasing their toxic burden improves their chances of experiencing good health. Rather than get flu shots, I feel that these groups of people need to work extra hard at improving immune system strength via the suggestions found toward the bottom of the following post:

Do You Know What's in a Flu Shot?

The decision to receive or decline a flu shot can be agonizingly difficult amid the panic and pressure that's being generated by every level of government in first world nations.

If you're still undecided, please take some time to research the ingredients in the H1N1 vaccine that's being offered in your area. Get the list of ingredients and google each one. Be sure that you understand the purpose and effects of each ingredient.

Most healthy people can likely withstand and recover from the negative effects of the chemicals found in flu vaccines. But doesn't it make sense to expose your cells to questionable ingredients only if you know for sure that getting the vaccine can improve or protect your health? I, for one, am confident that flu vaccines can only deteriorate my health - maybe not to a significant degree since I'm currently healthy. But there's no upside and a tremendous potential downside. And that's why I say no to flu shots, including the H1N1 shot that's being offered for free in Canada.