Flu, flu, what to do??

Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis, from www.theatlantic.com

Image credit: Jason Reed/Reuters/Corbis, from http://www.theatlantic.com

Okay, a show of hands: How many of you have not had at least one conversation about the flu, flu shots, illness, hand-washing, or something related in the past week?

That’s what I thought. (You over there, you can put your hand down.)

In mommydom, it seems to come up with not-so-startling regularity.  Catholic churches are taking the common cup away from the people, churches of all stripes are stopping handholding at whatever part of the service it might have happened, kids are being kept out of school, anti-bacterial hand goo is being used like it’s out of style (too bad it doesn’t really work anyway…)…I even had a conversation with my church choir advocating Common Sense Stuff–like, if you’re feeling like you’re coming down with something, please don’t suck it up and come to practice anyway.  If you live with someone who’s sick, even if you’re fine so far, please consider a smile and a nod at the sign of peace rather than shaking hands.  Wash hands often. Drink water and get enough sleep to keep your immunity up. All that usual stuff.

And then there’s the vaccine.  I must have been asked a dozen times in the past week, “Are you getting The Vaccine?” (You can hear the capital letters.) And its follow up question,  “Do you usually get a flu shot?”

(No and no, by the way.)

The other day I found this article from The Atlantic–it has that certain air of non-hyped straightforwardness that I find so refreshing in the media on those rare occasions I encounter it. On the other hand…it presents some startling statistics about flu vaccines in general and the public’s reliance on them.

It’s fairly long, but worth reading all three pages of. Obviously, as I always say, pay attention, do your own research, and make your own choice–that’s all any of us can do.

And eat well. Stay hydrated.  Wash your hands a lot. Get enough sleep. Do what you can.


Does the Vaccine Matter?

Drive too fast along Red Lion Road, beside Philadelphia’s Northeast Airport, and you will miss the low-rise cement building where the biotech company MedImmune has been quietly pumping out swine flu vaccine at about a million doses a week. …

Vaccination is central to the government’s plan for preventing deaths from swine flu…But what if everything we think we know about fighting influenza is wrong? What if flu vaccines do not protect people from dying—particularly the elderly, who account for 90 percent of deaths from seasonal flu? And what if the expensive antiviral drugs that the government has stockpiled over the past few years also have little, if any, power to reduce the number of people who die or are hospitalized?… (click here for full article)


Posted on October 20, 2009, in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I think a lot of people look at flu vaccines as a selfish question (am I really in any danger from the flue anyway) when it should be looked at as a community question (will it prevent me from transmitting the flu to populations in danger from it, like the elderly and babies). As your Atlantic article says, young and healthy people have a better immune response to the vaccine than elderly people and infants. So, as this article in the Economist says, vaccinating school-age children and their parents would decrease the spread of the flu and cut down on the number of elderly people and infants who have serious complications from it. I’d like to think environmentalists are more used to looking at the bigger picture rather than just our tiny corner of the world, so we’d more likely to look out for others in cases like this.

  2. greenmomintheburbs

    A valid point–and thank you for the article; that’s one I had not seen and it takes an intelligent approach. It’s nice to read something that actually addresses the scientific issues surrounding the flu vaccine and tells why it’s potentially a good thing in spite of the issues (rather than denying them).

    It still leaves the question of whether the risk of side effects as compared to likelihood of effectiveness is worth it to the individual getting the shot. And if the bug mutates into something resistant to the vaccine, which I understand is not uncommon, what makes me most nervous would be the number of folks who might abandon other precautionary measures and just assume they won’t get sick because they got the shot.

    Environmentalists DO try to look out for the big picture and not just our own corner of the world (at least the ones I hang with do), but we also are really careful about looking with healthy skepticism at many things we hear and read in the media. The problem with the flu shot as presented in the Atlantic article is that it’s become a perceived cure-all and hasn’t had any kind of real testing to determine how well it really works, or if it works at all.

    Everyone needs to do their research and make their own choice; seriously, thank you for this article and for balancing the other one a bit. Balance is good.

  1. Pingback: More on the flu vaccine… « It's Not Easy Being Green

  2. Pingback: When superbugs live in livestock…be afraid. (This is the part where Jenn Has A Rant) « It's Not Easy Being Green

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