Monday, November 02, 2009

I'll Have the H1N1 Omelet

I'm starting to feel a little guilty about my light-hearted swine flu posts earlier this year. I'm afraid that karma is going to bite me in the ass and it's really going to hurt this time.

In case you missed it last Sunday, 60 Minutes did an informative piece on the manufacture, distribution and safety of the H1N1 flu vaccine:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The H1N1 vaccine -- just like the seasonal flu vaccine -- is produced by growing the virus inside eggs which come from secret farms. These farms are considered so important to national security that among the first to get the vaccine are the egg farmers themselves. I assume they don't object to the privilege.

Which reminds me, I'd like to thank 60 Minutes for not interviewing a single moronic celebrity for their report. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius put it bluntly, "I tend to like to get my health advice from doctors and scientists. And that's what we would urge people to do."

Yes, I agree with her, but a lot of people don't. Fear and skepticism about the vaccine is being fueled by the likes of Glenn Beck, Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher. It was almost funny watching Bill Maher attempting to backpedal and debunk himself on the Realtime season finale two weeks ago. I wonder if his feelings were hurt by that open letter from the editor of Skeptic magazine.

Indeed it's not a laughing matter. A recent and excellent article in Wired explained how the antivaccinationists are creating a panic that is endangering us all:
The [Los Angeles] Times found that even though only about 2 percent of California’s kindergartners are unvaccinated (10,000 kids, or about twice the number as in 1997), they tend to be clustered, disproportionately increasing the risk of an outbreak of such largely eradicated diseases as measles, mumps, and pertussis (whooping cough). The clustering means almost 10 percent of elementary schools statewide may already be at risk.
This is the key to a public health catastrophe. People want the right to make individual choices, but the greatest protection comes from herd immunity: "in diseases passed from person to person, it is more difficult to maintain a chain of infection when large numbers of a population are immune. The higher the proportion of individuals who are immune, the lower the likelihood that a susceptible person will come into contact with an infected individual."

It's ironic that the parents who cavalierly refuse to get their children vaccinated never experienced the tragedy of a real epidemic because their own generation was vaccinated!

So when more H1N1 vaccines become available, I will try to get one, if that bad karma doesn't get to me first.

1 comment:

fabutastic said...

When I was vaccination age, no one complained except the kids getting stuck. And they just gave us lollipops. Which was actually a pretty effective way of shutting us up. Maybe someone should give these parents a lollipop.