Monday, October 19, 2009

Flu Shots Are Fun!

So apparently there are two reasons circulating as to why Americans don't think they should get flu shots. The big one seems to be that the government-issued CDC numbers (36,000 deaths from the flu a year) are either inaccurate or vague. Some say that the numbers are fudged through the roof to create hysteria, the idea that if you don't get a flu shot you will die, in order to move more units. People say that the actual flu deaths are much, much lower. Physicians have commented that what the numbers refer to are flu and flu-related deaths. So the opposers retort, "Oh, flu-related deaths? They're bullshitting us! I don't need the flu shot to prevent flu-related deaths! Give me the flu-related vaccine, but you're not tricking me with this one, tricky government!" That is a common straw man tactic. Whether the numbers are 36,000 or 36, many refer to cases in which the patient dies from pneumonia, and the medical thought is that the flu made them susceptible to pneumonia, so if you didn't get the flu, you wouldn't have got pneumonia, and you wouldn't have died, in some cases. While I believe that the government is highly involved with being pitchmen for the pharmaceutical industry, and that the more they sell the better off financially they will be, that does not devalue the shot itself. It's like saying, "Man, look how good that Big Mac looks in that commercial! They're just making it look like that so I'll buy it!" No shit! It still tastes great, (and is way worse for you than any vaccination could possibly be, weakening your immune system and so on.) So, people think the gov't is trying to bilk more money out of them, (Even after paying taxes! Swoon!) and as a response decide the shot is a scam in its entirety. They also cite that it is often ineffective. Flu shots contain dead viruses of multiple strains, the ones predicted to spread in America, so if the predictions are off, the shot may not protect you against the strains that end up being common. But historically, the experts intuit at a better than 50% clip, which is worth putting your money on. You can get the flu shot and still get the flu, or you may have already had it and it comes on later. So, if you see past all the propaganda (right wing, though not clearly partisan, as nobody wants to get sick and die), the desire to not help the government or big pharm financially is not a good reason to dismiss the shot.

This brings us to my second point. With that trash thinking behind us, you'll probably think, "Well I might as well get it. Even if it doesn't help it can't hurt." And you'd be completely correct, but the second reason people don't want to get flu shots (other than a fear of needles, which is a legitimate phobia, I myself am scared of tropical birds) is they fear what is inside the needle. Well, there may be something kind of bad in there... a mercury-based preservative is used in many (more than 50%) of flu shots, specifically swine flu shots. Not great for adults, as any sushi fan will tell you, and the intake should be very limited, that is to one shot at a time over a period of weeks. Again, the Big Mac (and all our fave fast food burgers) contains carcinogenic preservatives and the production of beef is killing the atmosphere quicker and more effectively than any ol' can of White Rain, but we still enjoy them, responsibly, of course. And don't get me started on cigarettes! For children (I don't think any kids read me), it gets sticky. Folks like Jenny McCarthy (my all time favorite poster) think that the vaccination of children at a very young age (like the ones we all got) can lead to autism and other serious ailments in children. I think the jury is still out on that one, but like adults, parents should spread out the inoculation process if their doctor is over zealous or perhaps under qualified (and still more qualified than me, but I am up on things). But that's the only risk. As far as getting sick due to flu shots, it just doesn't happen. You can have the flu and get the shot and still get sick, cause it only prevents, doesn't treat. You can get the shot and come down with a different strain. You can get the shot and get strep throat or a cold or bronchitis or anything else, but the flu shots you get in America contain DEAD (inactive) virus, and will not get you sick. Caveat emptor: the shot may result in flu-like symptoms, and you may feel crumby for a short time while your system creates antibodies to help fight the actual flu, especially if it is your first-ever shot, so if that is enough to turn you off to possible protection from a possible actual flu, or you see no effectual difference between the full blown flu and flu-like symptoms, that is a personal decision. Worse case scenario, you get me sick.

That being said, of course, you can forgo the shot and still have a happy, healthy flu season, especially in my demographic. Generally healthy twenty/thirty/forty-somethings are at the least risk, and even if they get the flu will probably just get sick, be miserable for a few days, and then recover. People who should get the shot are those most likely to have a hard time recovering and may develop complications. That is little kids, preggos (women carrying babies, duh!), oldsters (senior citizens!) and anyone with immune deficiencies. For the rest of us, we are at liberty to use our best judgement. I myself love sticking needles in my arm. My good buddy (who will remain nameless, just in case) used to roll up around this time with a bag of flu shots and peroxide and cotton balls and latex gloves and hit all us punks up once in the arm. Man that was cool! The only reason I haven't been vaccinated is that I don't have the extra scratch to get it done, but as soon as I do: SPIKE!

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