- Kathryn Patterson
Fly Away, Flu!
This past week, I received an email from the pediatrician's office, telling me that the flu vaccine is now available and remind me to schedule an appointment for my children. The email spawned some questions:
Do I want to schedule an appointment?
Do I want my kids to get another vaccine? I know that vaccines do not directly cause autism, because I read and believe all of the research surrounding thimerosal. And I have relatives who died or were permanently disabled from polio, so I also believe that vaccines do good. But I also know that the over use and misuse of antibiotics has created several new super bugs, including new strains of both tuberculosis and gonorrhea that resist almost all available antibiotics. If we get an epidemic of either disease, we would be hard-pressed to respond in any way other than to let the infected die while protecting the healthy. So I wonder, do vaccines exasperate the problem? After research, my answer is no, vaccines do not exasperate the super bug problem. In fact, by removing certain viruses from the living population, vaccines help us eradicate certain diseases, creating a stronger populations. I then looked at arguments against the flu vaccine, or vaccines in general:
Vaccines hurt the immune system, as evidenced by the sudden expansion of auto-immune diseases.
The flu vaccine doesn't work because the scientists merely guess what to put into it.
We don't know that vaccines are effective.
My child is not in an at-risk group, and therefore does not need the flu vaccine.
Vaccines use thimerosal, which causes mercury poisoning. More research ensued, and this is what I learned.
Auto-immune disease, such as arthritis, have been documented for centuries, and there really is no "sudden expansion" in the area. In fact, vaccines help to exercise the immune system in a world filled with antibacterial soap and obsession with cleaning products.
Okay, the scientists are guessing what flu will emerge each winter. But the amount of hard work put into that "guess" outweighs the amount of fancy or fantasy in it.
Proving a positive is quite difficult in science. But circumstantial evidence solidly and strongly supports the effectiveness of vaccines.
In the beginning, the medical community recommended the flu vaccine only for at-risk groups (such as people with weakened immune systems or with respiratory problems, like asthma). But these days, everyone is eligible for the flu vaccine because it is better for everyone if no one gets the flu.
Thimerosal is a preservative for multi-dose vaccines that helps to prevent deaths from vaccines gone bad. In 1928, 12 children died from a staphylococcus infection given to them through a vaccine without preservatives. Several groups researched thimerosal after someone supposedly linked it to autism, but no one has credibly supported that link. In response to public opinion, the CDC removed thimerosal from almost all vaccines. The flu vaccine is an exception, and still contains a small amount of thimerosal, but there is a non-thimerosal version available if you ask for it.In the end, I would rather my kids not get the flu, so I will be taking them to get the flu vaccine in the next week or so. My husband and I will also be getting the flu vaccine. The question now is, will you?
* The video is a song about the flu, composed and sung by the amazing Tom Lehrer.