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Business

Back to they did too much on swine flu

Despite clear evidence that your chances of dying from a vaccine are infinitesimal next to the chances you may die of flu, millions still refuse the vaccine.
Written by Dana Blankenhorn, Inactive on

Public views on H1N1 "swine" flu have been manic depressive since the start of the pandemic this spring.

We're taking it too seriously. We're not taking it seriously enough. We're doing too much. We're doing too little. It's all a waste of money. It's going to kill us all.

While the new strain of flu has killed thousands and the United States has been the epicenter of those deaths, the latest "flu view" from the CDC shows the problem continuing to decrease.

While there were big fears about vaccine shortages a few weeks ago, with Congress banging the table for action, increasing numbers of states report plentiful supplies, so you can get it in Georgia even if you're not in a high risk group.

Meanwhile the disease continues to spread worldwide, getting past even the Chinese firewall. This means the virus has a chance to mutate, and without some breakthrough in vaccine design we may need two annual shots going forward, one for common H1N5 influenza and one for H1N1.

More troubling is the continuing denialism about vaccines in general, which is causing the present surplus. Despite clear evidence that your chances of dying from a vaccine are infinitesimal next to the chances you may die of flu, millions still refuse the vaccine.

The calculation might be compared to one between violent murder and car accidents. You have a much better chance of dying in the latter than dying from the former, but lots of death penalty advocates still drive without seatbelts, calling it their "right."

The reason for this comes down to one word -- control. With two hands on the wheel we think we have control over our odds of death by car. We don't have that assurance on violent crime, so crime scares us much more.

This is true for the flu as well. The vaccine syringe looks like a loaded gun, a form of Russian roulette we are told our kids must play. At the same time we think that careful living can keep us isolated from flu carriers, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, or that the flu can't be so bad if most victims recover.

The math is against us, but the myth keeps denialism (and the H1N1 strain) very much alive.

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