The useless flu vaccine – a dangerous and sad myth

Go ahead and Google “useless flu vaccine.” You’ll see over 100,000 hits for that search term, some from reliable sources on vaccines. However, the vast majority are from anti-vaccine websites, some trying really hard to appear legitimate. Sure, the flu vaccine is not perfect (no vaccine is), but it’s effectiveness is not 0. I don’t get the argument that vaccines are in some fake binary world – it’s either 100% perfect or it’s useless.

There are reasons why flu vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year. Part of it is that various national public health agencies, like the CDC, meet 10 months before the flu season to determine which influenza subtypes will be prevalent during the winter. It’s not guesswork, it’s based on epidemiological models and new mutations in the virus, but it’s not 100% perfect.

To classify it as the “useless flu vaccine” betrays one essential fact – the flu is dangerous, and any protection against the disease is critical.

This year, the hospitalization rate for laboratory confirmed flu is around 15.2 per 100,000 population, mostly for children under 5 and adults over 50. But that doesn’t mean health young adults and teens are excluded – there is still a high rate of hospitalization for those age groups.

During the first week of January 2017, there were 141 deaths from flu in the USA. And there’s been over 500 deaths from the flu since the start of the flu season. If you think a useless flu vaccine does nothing to prevent a harmless disease, you’d be wrong on both points.

Not to be overly dramatic, but maybe it’s time to put some names and faces to individuals who have died recently from the flu. Because these senseless deaths should make you stop. They should make you feel sad. They should motivate you to get yourself and your loved ones vaccinated.

Maryland – A 17 year old high school was battling the flu when she died of cardiac arrest.

Oklahoma – A young child died from the flu.

Ohio – A six year old kindergarten student died from the flu.

Snohomish County, Washington –  At least 26 people have died from the flu this season.

San Diego, California – At least 21 people have died from influenza in the 2016-17 flu season.

Of course, there are hundreds of other stories. Yes, many who died have underlying medical conditions, or are very young or elderly, but are their lives less precious than all others? Maybe your child, whom you failed to vaccinate, passes along the flu to her grandmother – is that acceptable?

There are dozens of individual stories about children, teens, parents, grandparents, diabetics, healthy young adults, and little babies who have died from the flu this year. It’s a serious and dangerous disease that many of you dismiss as “nothing more than a little sniffle.” The flu isn’t the common cold, which isn’t dangerous – they are two different diseases.

Yes, we all admit that the flu vaccine is far from perfect. But it is extraordinarily safe, and if it reduces your risk of catching the flu by 70% or 50% or even 30%, it’s worth getting, not only for yourself and those whom you love, but also to protect those who are at risk from the flu.

So is it a useless flu vaccine? Only if you think 500 deaths is acceptable – most rational people wouldn’t.

 

 

 

The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!