"Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again..."

Location: Tampa, FL, United States

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Flu Vaccine Myths Ramping Up

With winter approaching flu vaccine myths will be rampant in the media. Mary Shedden used two standard myths in her article today appearing in the 4You section of the Tampa Tribune today. She wrote, with respect to last year's flu season, "about 12,000 Americans died of complications related to the H1N1 flu strain;" The chief medical officer for England
wrote that 2/3 of H1N1-related deaths were in people with sever underlying disease or an incapacitating prior illness. That changes the picture quite a bit. An accurate statement would have been, "about 12,000 Americans died on the heels of being positively tested the H1N1 flu strain; The majority of them had significant concomitant or prior medical issues and it's uncertain what impact the H1N1 infection had in their deaths." This however would be boring reading and not very newsworthy.

Shedden also wrote, with respect to this year's seasonal vaccine, "... early reports show it's keeping flu outbreaks at bay." How does she know? Who knows how much inoculum is in any given geographical region for a given time period. In the people afflicted how much inoculum were they exposed to? What was the condition of the immune systems in the people with the flu? Did they have any other viruses on board? Were they eating a ton of simple carbs? What was their 25-Hydroxyvitamin D level? An accurate report would have read, "early reports show it [flu vaccine] has been received by x # of Americans and flu outbreaks have been light." A true report such as that though is both a chatty way of saying nothing and boring reading. Expect reports to ramp up soon, something along the lines of, "get vaccinated today--don't kill your neighbor's children by not getting vaccinated." Now that's a great story. Harry Potter stuff.

Perhaps Shedden had a gun to her head by her editors. I don't know. You can be certain there won't be any retraction though. Science is mostly a new art form, not science.

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