Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vaccination time

On Thursday this week I'm getting my influenza vaccination, in a program paid for by my employer. My office has 20 people working in it, and only four are being vaccinated in the work-sponsored program. It's possible that some have already been or will be vaccinated by their doctors, but I don't think this is the case. I was the one collecting responses for the office, and not one indicated private arrangements while three indicated that they didn't accept vaccination as safe and/or effective. I should note that this is an offfice of "allied health professionals" - occupational therapists, psychologists, exercise physiologists, etc. It's really quite depressing to see vaccination not more eagerly grasped. It's a little embarassing to work in an office more accepting of altmed bullshit (we have staff who go to chiropractors, reiki therapists and homeopaths) than real medical science.

I think I can sum up my position on vaccination fairly simply:
  • I accept that vaccination carries some small amount of risk, but that risk is outweighed by the potential benefit to both myself and to others - especially those who have real medical reasons or are too young to be vaccinated.
  • I accept that the influenza vaccine will not protect me against any viruses other than the three strains of influenza it targets. It will not protect me against the common cold, which many people get and then call the flu. 
  • I accept the vaccine is not 100% effective in stopping infection. It's still possible for me to catch a strain that the vaccine targets, just unlikely.
  • I accept that the influenza vaccine is designed to provoke an immune response and I may have some side-effects, particularly some that mimic symptoms of the flu.

Should vaccination be mandatory? Being a bit libertarian, I think in most offices the answer would be in the negative. Perhaps anyone not getting vaccinated should be forced to take recreation leave if they get the flu, but that may require getting some expensive tests. Maybe anyone vaccinated should get the next day off to recover from any ill effects, even if they don't have any. That may increase the number of people doing the right thing.

Over at Bad Astronomy Phil Plait has a post about a whooping cough outbreak in Boulder. We've had problems with pertussis here in Australia too, partly due to low vaccination rates and partly due to a new strain that isn't as well covered by the vaccine.

I don't think it too much of a spoiler to include the end of Plait's post, which you should read in full, here:
If you haven’t had your booster, you should talk to your board-certified doctor and see if you need one as well.

As Danica, Natalie’s mother put it:
"I almost lost my daughter at almost six weeks old… that could have been prevented if everyone was vaccinated."
She’s right. Antivaxxers are wrong. DON’T believe them about vaccine ingredients. DON’T believe them when they say they just want to educate people. DON’T believe them when they say vaccines cause autism. DON’T believe them when they say vaccines don’t work.
Vaccinations save lives. It’s that simple. Go talk to your doctor. NOW.

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