10/10/2010

Flu Vaccines: Gonna Get Yours?

An article from Thursday on Yahoo News looks at the survey results of Americans regarding flu vaccination. Myths abound regarding the flu, the vaccine, and the potential side effects, but that's no real surprise. When it comes to people, the reality is that myths do abound, that people believe all sorts of absurdities, and that such myths are infectious. After all, people still think we only use 10% of our brains, and witnessing the kinds of things we believe, it's easy to believe that one. We all know people who don't appear to be even using that slim percentage.

One of the things that doesn't get bandied about much in these surveys regarding who will partake of the flu vaccine is cost. Having health insurance is not necessarily going to get folks a no-additional cost vaccine. If you're a military dependent, you're last in line for those no-cost vaccines unless you're high risk. That means that most years, my children get their vaccinations at the the local health clinic for a cost. It's not cheap; oh, I know, at the health clinic, it's 15 dollars, but that adds up. If you get the flu shot at Walmart, it's 24 bucks a head. Given a choice between buying 24 dollars worth (times 3) of food or three shots, I think many people whose budgets are stretched are going to opt for the food. We're waiting to see if the military opens it up to all dependents (usually happens mid-October, first part of November). I'd rather not wait, but given a choice between 72 dollars now or no cost in a couple weeks, the frugal me says wait. It's a risk, but it's not a risk that's easy to quantify.

Each year, my family gets vaccinated against the flu. We've never had any adverse effects, and I believe protecting my children and other people (by hopefully keeping us from spreading the flu to others) is important. I know that people who don't vaccinate also want to protect their children but may have made different risk assessments. I'm all for individual choice; I just hope that it's predicated on factual information rather than those ever-abundant myths as well as a recognition that we are really, really bad at assessing risks.

If the government wants everyone over the age of 6 months to be protected against the flu, then I think vaccines should be made available to all for no cost. In fact, I think that if protection against these infectious diseases is so important, than all should be protected at no additional cost. Sure, there'd still be profit in it for the pharmaceuticals; they'd sell their product to the government, and of course, the government providing this service to all its citizens would reinforce the committed anti-vaccine folks' belief that there is a conspiracy between governments and industry to poison our population, but lets remember that these folks are the same ones who thing the government is using planes to keep mercury levels high so that autism rates don't drop and make it clear that it really was the thimerosal in the vaccines that did it. Face it, with these folks, there's no winning.

My hope is that folks as they think about whether to get the vaccine or not won't have to decide literally between eating or getting those vaccines for their families. If we, as a society, really care, we'll make sure no one has to make that distinction. But, of course, if we really cared, everyone would be going to bed tonight with a full belly and a sense of security.

It seems to me we've a lot a work to do, all the way around.


Oh, and those anti-vaxxers who insist doctors aren't vaccinating are, not surprisingly, wrong:

"In a separate NFID online survey of 400 physicians, conducted in mid-September, an overwhelming 90 percent said they planned to get vaccinated. Three percent remained uncertain and less than 2 percent of doctors said they would not get vaccinated.
In addition, most doctors recommend flu shots to their families, friends and patients, the survey found." 

6 comments:

Autism Mom Rising said...

While most vaccines are efficacious, some research suggests that the flu shot may not be one of them:

http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/04/27/flu-vaccine-not-effective-in-elderly/

Time Magazine has a great editorial that summarizes: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1967306,00.html

Then there are some studies that say it does work. So, at best I see this as an open question.

To answer the question in your title, Gonna get yours? No, I am not. Without putting too much medical info on a public post, from my last email, you know why. It is not safe for ME as an individual, but that's not just vaccines. I am the mother of a disabled child who needs me to live a long and healthy life, so I can take care of him.

I hope you've had a great weekend...and gotten some sleep. :)

Chris said...

We will as soon as we get over our colds.

tasivfer said...

Another reminder of how lucky I am to live in Australia! I've never paid for a vaccine, and I get them every year.

KWombles said...

AMR,

Hopefully, enough people will get vaccinated to provide a ring of protection around all those who are immune-compromised and cannot get vaccinated. And people who get sick will have the ability to stay home and not spread the viruses to others! I tell my students I'd rather them stay home when they are ill instead of coming in and coughing, sneezing, and in general being miserable during class. Isn't it bad enough on a regular day, when they're just miserable? :-) Seems we have generalized attitudes regarding working while sick that as a society we have to work on.

I hope you had a great weekend, too. :-) Still working on the getting enough sleep here.

@Chris, hi, hope you get over your colds quickly.

@tasivfer, it makes so much sense to offer vaccines free to all citizens, doesn't it? Glad you have that there.

Roger Kulp said...

My mother and I have both either gotten sick very soon after getting a flu shot,or gotten one,and then a month or two later gotten the flu on more than one occasion.So we are both very wary of getting one,which we have not done yet.

We have also talked to doctors who have gotten sick from flu shots.

Corina Becker said...

Be getting mine!!! Always get mine. On top of my asthma and sleep apnea giving me added complications to any little sniffle I come down with, I'd hate to pick up more!

Also, considering where I live, in a group-home-kinda setting, everyone here is at risk, for reasons including contact with our support workers.

So yeah, we might be getting our vaccines brought to our door. And like in Australia, it's free here in Canada!