January 30th, 2013
So I got an email forwarded with the subject line, “Influenza Vaccination Dangerous and Ineffective.” Yeah, you know, not so dangerous, certainly not statistically when compared to the danger of the flu itself, and since when did a number like 60% effective (a conservative estimate of effectiveness that rolls in a number of factors) mean “ineffective?”
When you have biased libertarian/conservative types who don’t trust the government, or scientists, or statistics, that’s when. It’s the same kind of biased reasoning that leads them to reject climate change (which almost certainly requires regulations — a dirty word to them — to be addressed, and it’s something liberals like Al Gore believe in so a double reason to deny it).
Don’t believe me? After I got the forwarded email, I went to see where this type of news was being discussed and spread. It’s all conservative/libertarian news outlets (e.g. the New American story here, a publication of the John Birch Society) and blogs, as well as fringe crank/conspiracy sources (like this one from rense.com) that feed the anti-authority/government/science biases.
Many of the stories I scanned made a point of how vaccines are tied to abortion and aborted fetal tissue (which also calls 60% effectiveness “highly ineffective”) or can cause — not miscarriages — but “spontaneous abortions.” (See this critique of this biased nonsense.)
Yeah, there are some liberal nut cases still convinced many vaccines cause autism, which is well debunked, but this business about flu shots seems rooted in the libertarian strain of conservatism and conspiracy theory. Some also seem just pro-nature/anti-science (which is only a conflict to those who don’t understand science), and think the flu is natural or god’s will and not to be prevented through government or technological efforts. Some are pushing alternative medicine, on much shakier grounds than vaccines, in order to prevent flu.
If “Influenza Vaccination Dangerous and Ineffective” becomes a widely believed and passed on meme, people will die unnecessarily. My wife works at a retirement home and flu/flu leading to pneumonia is what kills a lot of the elderly there and elsewhere. Even if you’re young and healthy, you may pass on the meme or the flu itself and contribute to the death of your loved ones, or someone else’s loved ones.
Don’t do it. Vaccines are not perfectly safe or perfectly effective, but that’s a far cry from “dangerous and ineffective,” especially when we know for a fact that the flu kills thousands annually, and in the past some individual strains have even killed millions.
I’ve been too busy to get a shot this year, but I’m going to make an effort if they’re still available in my area just to be pro-science and anti-science denialism.
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