Lies, Damn Lies, and The Flu Vaccine

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OK, hope that got your attention because it is just as misleading as most of the claims about the “new” H1N1 vaccine.

I know there is a lot of misinformation out there, some well-meaning errors because most journalists really know nothing about science or medicine, and some malicious and deliberately misleading from the same folks who are against almost every new idea unless, of course, it involves them using telephones, cars, visiting a doctor, or vending on the Internet.

You know them; the fear mongers; the ones who thrive on making others afraid or getting people to do what they want just for the feeling of power it gives them and mostly do so by distorting and twisting the facts to sound scary.

I know a lot of people are confused about the new vaccine because I get dozens of emails from desperate people around the world asking me what is the truth; people who read my bird flu blog or regularly read my newmedicineonline.com reports which also carries my melanoma blog and flu blog.

So, if you are ready for it, here is the truth.

Yes, the H1N1 vaccine is, as nearly every TV reporter says in their preface to yet another misleading and scary story, NEW, Brand New.

They always say this just before they say that people are afraid to try this brand new vaccine.

But here is what they never seem to go on to say.

EVERY YEAR WE HAVE A BRAND NEW FLU VACCINE.

The H1N1 vaccine is made the same way every flu vaccine is made.

The same way the seasonal flu vaccine is made.

It is only NEW in the sense that it protects against a different flu strain – guess what, every year the seasonal flu vaccine is ALSO protecting against a different flu strain – if it wasn’t NEW, you wouldn’t need it, you would already have immunity.

Lies, especially scary lies are usually based in some truth or they wouldn’t resonate with the frightened and uninformed.

Science is hard. It is especially hard in a country where most high school graduates can barely add and subtract without a calculator and many adults can’t even tell time from an analog clock.

This time the scare-mongers are trying to frighten people by saying they shouldn’t risk taking a brand new vaccine, while ignoring the simple fact that every flu vaccine is brand new in the exact same sense because the flu changes every few months.

This is not true of many vaccines. For example, the Polio vaccine is still pretty much the same one I got in grade school in the middle of the last century – that’s because many diseases don’t mutate much.

What I wonder, what I REALLY wonder is how many of these people who say how dangerous this NEW vaccine is, get it for themselves and their kids. How many are scaring others because they know it is scarce and they want to be certain there is some for their families?

I bet a lot of them do get vaccinated – I base that on all the people I run into who complain about technology and how dangerous progress is, then get into their computer-controlled cars and drive to their air-conditioned office and update their Facebook page.

I’ve met a lot of people who say that we should live naturally, as nature intended. Not one of them sleeps in a tree and eats raw meat and roots.

Another germ of truth is that ALL vaccines have some potential for harming some people. All surgery carries considerable risks also but lots of people visit cosmetic surgeons every day.

Yes, there will be a few people who have some reaction to the flu vaccine – it happens every year. But you are thousands of times more likely to have severe medical problems from catching the flu!

AND, if you catch the H1N1 flu or your child does, then the danger of some future problem which kept you from taking the dead virus in the vaccine is nothing compared to the potential long-term consequences of getting the actual Swine Flu.

In fact, it is known that the Swine Flu can cause neurological problems.

Life is always full of choices.

For example, you may not want to use seat belts or you may want to text while you drive, or you may drink and drive. People do all of those every day.

What you shouldn’t do is let uninformed people who have an agenda make your decisions for you based on zero evidence.

We know about driving hazards from the drunks and the idiots who think they can write a novel while driving, yet most of us get on the highway anyway because the benefits far outweigh the chances of an accident.

I’m not telling you that you should get the H1N1 flu shot, just asking that you think through the misleading scare words and think for yourself.

The flu vaccine may pose some dangers, but they are nothing compared to the danger of letting others do your thinking for you, especially when you don’t know if they are even qualified to have an opinion.

John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. He is a 38-year member of the National Press Club, retired emergency management coordinator, physicist, and member of the AAAS. He is a senior NewsBlaze writer who writes incisive, investigative stories.