We’re nearing the commencement of the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. And every flu season, for the past 6 years, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s epic rant about Dumb Ass healthcare workers who refuse to get the flu vaccine.
Dr. Crislip’s hysterical characterizations, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, are a list of the different types of flu vaccine refusing healthcare worker Dumb Asses. I resurrect this list every year not only for humor (because it is funny), but also to point the finger at healthcare workers.
Any nurse, pharmacist, therapist, physician, or surgeon that refuses the flu vaccine chooses pseudoscientific nonsense about the vaccine rather than protecting their patients. I may be harsh, but maybe their employment ought to be terminated for their lack of concern about patients.
But the Dumb Asses aren’t just healthcare workers. You know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who are flu vaccine refusers. And they rely on same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers.
The flu season is just starting, and it’s almost impossible to not find a place to get the vaccine. Your family doctor, clinics, pharmacies, and many other places currently have the flu vaccine. And I am not a hypocrite – I received my flu vaccination two weeks ago. Of course, my healthcare plan gives them out for free to all members.
And if you think you can prevent or cure the flu with vitamin C, echinacea, or bone broth (yes, it’s a thing), they don’t work. You are not going to be able to boost your immune system to destroy the flu virus unless you get vaccinated.
We’ve dispensed with many of the myths that are cherished by flu vaccine refusers, and many reseachers have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.
Continue reading “Flu vaccine refusal – healthcare worker Dumb Asses”
Along with the HPV vaccine, the pediatric flu vaccine has one of the lowest uptakes amongst children’s vaccinations – only around 40% of American children receive the vaccine. Unfortunately, a lot of this ignorance of the flu vaccine may result from an assumption that the flu is just not that serious of a disease. That thinking puts children at risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted an article on their website, “10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2017-2018 Flu Vaccine,” which gives some information about the pediatric flu vaccine. We’re going to give this list the feathery dinosaur’s treatment with a bit more pointed commentary and links. Because everyone loves links. Continue reading “Pediatric flu vaccine – 10 important facts for parents”
Here we go again. Just like the popular zombie TV shows, the flu vaccine myths continue to rise from the dead, scaring people away from protecting themselves from a dangerous disease. And just like Rick Grimes, it’s my job to help my fellow skeptics stop this zombie outbreak and safeguard the innocent from the brain eating tropes of the antivaccine crowd.
Since we’re entering the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, your best weapon to avoid the effects of the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine. Despite the known overall safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the antivaccination cult is pushing their ignorant nonsense all over social media, especially Facebook.
Despite all the good reasons to get the vaccine, the CDC estimated the flu vaccine uptake in the USA is around 40%. This is well below the 80-90% uptake required for herd immunity against the flu.
Let’s take a look at these zombie flu vaccine myths, and debunk them once again. Zombies are so hard to put down. Continue reading “Flu vaccine myths – zombie anti-vaccine lies blanket Facebook”
The Washington Post dropped this provocative headline on its readers yesterday, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriage.” And you know what will happen next –every anti-vaccine website will claim that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages.
Of course, the evidence based facts fail to support the future trope that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article is filled with nuance and hedging, because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.
The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,
The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.
I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”
Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.
Well, we don’t cherry pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here. Continue reading “Flu vaccine causes miscarriages – the real evidence says otherwise”
Anti-vaccine activists constantly look for any science that seems to support their beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Lately, they have gravitated to the writings of Peter Doshi, who has made a career talking about vaccines. Although Doshi lacks the credentials in any area of science related to vaccines – immunology, microbiology, virology, public health, epidemiology – the anti-vaccine forces embrace him like he’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Which he is not.
Let’s take a look at Doshi’s credentials and what he’s written about vaccines, specifically the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers”
The world’s population is getting older, since people live longer as a result of our modern healthcare. As people age, their bodies become less able to respond to infections and develop immunity, a process called immunosenescence. One of the most dangerous infectious diseases for the elderly is the flu. Thus, influenza vaccine effectiveness is an important factor for protecting the health of our elderly citizens. Continue reading “Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations”
When dealing with those pushing pseudoscience, like the antivaccination cult, the most frustrating thing is that they tend to ignore and deny the most basic tenets of science. If denying the fact of gravity would further their goals of “proving” vaccines are neither effective nor safe, they would do so. And now that it’s flu season, they’re producing zombie tropes about flu vaccine ingredients.
If the antivaccination movement didn’t lead to epidemics of long-gone diseases, which can harm and kill children, the conversation would be over. I would just put the vaccine deniers in the same group as evolution deniers (creationists) or gravity deniers (there has to be some, somewhere). I would mock their pseudoscience, and move on. Of course, their denialism does lead to deaths of children, so we have to do what is right, and stop their lies, misinformation and ignorance in every forum we can.
We have to appeal to scientific values, and despite the fact that antivaccination pushers don’t share those values, we must continue to try. I have gotten enough emails and comments from people that they have started to vaccinate because of what I have written, so maybe some child’s life is better because all of us who support vaccines are heard.
Continue reading “Flu vaccine ingredients – not so scary using simple math”
When it comes to the influenza vaccine, there are a number of myths that surround the flu vaccine, pushed by vaccine deniers and, often, by vaccine supporters. The two most prevalent seems to be that the flu vaccine isn’t very effective, and the flu isn’t that dangerous. But a new peer-reviewed article has been published that focuses on these two myths. Based on the evidence, flu vaccine effectiveness prevents pediatric deaths. Period.
There have been numerous articles about flu vaccine effectiveness over the years – it’s rarely 90% or greater. The major reason for this is that all of the health organizations across the world have to meet 8-10 months before the flu season to determine what subtype(s) of flu virus will be most common in the northern or southern hemisphere. In some years, the flu virus will mutate between the time to decide on the right antigen and the vaccine is manufactured and shipped.
Generally, the vaccine is very effective against influenza B, mainly because this subtype of flu tends to mutate at a much lower rate than other flu viruses. On the other hand, the vaccine tends to have somewhat lower effectiveness against influenza A, mainly because of its higher mutation rate, and because it can infect (and mutate) in many other animals, especially birds, which have regular contact with humans.
But in no case is the effectiveness at 0. There seems to be a reliance on the Nirvana fallacy – if it’s not perfect, it’s worthless. Yes, the flu vaccine effectiveness is far from perfect, it ranges from 40-65% most years. But does that mean it’s worthless? Absolutely not. The flu vaccine prevents a lot of pediatric deaths, something we need to carefully examine.
Flu vaccine effectiveness – the publication
In a paper published in Pediatrics by Flannery et al., the authors reviewed laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths since 2004 to determine the relationship with flu vaccination status. What they found was that the vaccine was much better at preventing pediatric death than not vaccinating at all – this may seem obvious, but it’s better to have statistically valid data published in a top rated journal.
The researchers conducted a case-cohort epidemiological study that compared vaccination uptake among laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths with estimated vaccination coverage among pediatric cohorts in the United States. The study design allows the researchers to determine the actual flu vaccine effectiveness in preventing pediatric deaths.
Using data from July 2010 through June 2014, there were 358 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported in children aged 6 months through 17 years. The researchers were able to determine vaccination status for 291 of these deaths. Here are their results:
- Of the 291 deaths with known vaccination status, 75 (26%) received the vaccine before onset of the flu, and 216 (74%) were unvaccinated.
- The overall vaccine effectiveness against death was 65%, which means the vaccine prevented pediatric death in 65% of the population.
- The vaccine effectiveness against death in children with high-risk conditions was 51%
This data clearly shows a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups with respect to pediatric death.
Flannery et al. conclude that,
Influenza vaccination was associated with reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death. Increasing influenza vaccination could prevent influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents.
Flu vaccines save lives
This is robust and high quality evidence that the flu vaccine prevents pediatric deaths. Most children who die from the flu are unvaccinated, that is clear from this analysis. The job of vaccines is to prevent infectious diseases that harm our children (and adults) – the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but for minimal risk, it prevents a lot of deaths. It does save lives.
Flannery B, Reynolds SB, Blanton L, Santibanez TA, O’Halloran A, Lu P-J, Chen J, Foppa IM, Gargiullo P, Bresee J, Singleton JA, Fry AM. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Against Pediatric Deaths: 2010–2014
- Yamashita M, Krystal M, Fitch WM, Palese P. Influenza B virus evolution: co-circulating lineages and comparison of evolutionary pattern with those of influenza A and C viruses. Virology. 1988 Mar;163(1):112-22. PubMed PMID: 3267218.
Generally, when I write about vaccines, it’s about protecting children’s lives from vaccine preventable diseases. That itself is a noble goal for vaccines. But in case you didn’t know, there is also a CDC schedule for adult vaccines, which is as important to adults as they are to children.
Vaccines have one purpose – to protect us and those whom we love from potentially deadly and debilitating diseases. Many of us in the blogosphere have talked about the children’s schedule a lot, often to debunk claims of people who are ignorant of science, and think that the children’s vaccine schedule is causing undue harm. Yeah our intellectually deficient president, Donald Trump, thinks he knows more than the CDC, but that’s a problem shared by many vaccine deniers.
One adult vaccine I push regularly is the flu vaccine. It protects adults, pregnant women, the elderly, children, and healthy young adults from a severe infection that hospitalizes and kills more people every year than you’d think. Because flu is not really a serious disease, in some people’s minds, a lot of people decide that they don’t need the vaccine. They’d be wrong.
Just in case you were wondering, there is more to adult vaccines than just flu vaccines. There are several other vaccines indicated for adult use, including those adults with underlying health issues like diabetes, HIV and heart disease – unfortunately, the uptake for adult vaccines is depressingly low. Let’s take at the low uptake and the recommended adult vaccines schedule.
Continue reading “Adult vaccines – the CDC wants to save adult lives too”
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.