Printer friendly version

October 15, 2004

Sometimes I Feel Like I Missed a Few Decades

Yes, I've noticed the increased interest in flu shots over the past few years. Yes, I know we're all supposed to be all a-panic over the vaccine shortage. But reading Michelle Malkin's personal experiences trying to secure a shot for her 11-month-old son made me wonder whether I've missed some significant turn of events.

Throughout this millennium, when somebody's asked me a question about flu shots, my unwavering reply has been: "Huh?" Flu shots? Shots for the flu? Don't we combat the flu with axioms — as in "feed a cold, starve the flu"? Michelle writes that the "shortage of the flu vaccine may lead to more deaths than the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." Really?

That's an honest question. Back when I was a kid, was the nation suffering one flu 9/11 per year? I beg of you not to read anything more than a statement of fact in the following: I can name three people with whom my life has intersected who died on September 11, 2001. About a dozen who were close. I couldn't name a single person whom I've known who has died of the flu, or who has had a loved one die of it. That doesn't mean that nobody has, but the flu has never in my lifetime been an illness that carried with it the stench of death.

So, the question: am I being negligent as a father for not dropping everything to head to the pediatrician's office? Or do I get another year or two before not fighting over the rationed supplies marks me as an irresponsible parent stuck in an ignorantly blissful past when the flu was just an illness that made you glad that you had indoor plumbing and cable TV?

Posted by Justin Katz at October 15, 2004 9:09 PM
Life
Comments

Justin,
Every flu season requires a different flu vaccine for one thing. Waiting a couple of years doesn't necessarily calculate one way or another in whether or not the lack of getting vaccinated makes one more or less susceptible to getting it the next year.

Even so, if you were considered culpable of negligence and/or irresponsibility in caring for your child, it could not be any more so than the subject of this article from newsmax.com that explores why there is a shortage in the first place.

Posted by: smmtheory at October 16, 2004 2:42 AM

I think some roughly 30,000 people die each year in America of the flu. I hate to be so flip, but lets put these deaths in context: They are vastly disproportionately elderly folks with very weak constitutions, who are, eventually within a relatively short period of time, going to die of something anyway. They are the same people who die every summer in heat waves.

I read a piece recently by Michael Fumento, who has done some good work on putting AIDS into context, but unfortunately, overstates his case and is given to distortion. He noted that more people are dying, in the US (obviously not in Africa) of the flu every year than AIDS.

Yeah--but look at who (or rather, at what age) is dying of AIDS and look at who is dying of the flu.

Posted by: Jon Rowe at October 16, 2004 9:54 AM

I believe there is also a significant number of infants who die from the flu, though I don't know the exact numbers (obviously, a rather small number in this cohort becomes 'significant', for the complimentary reasons to those Jon mentioned above regarding the old and infirm). I think these, too, are probably mostly sicker/more frail babies than average, so there is little risk for healthy children.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 16, 2004 10:06 PM

I think there's also the specter of an especially virulent epidemic. Since the flu morphs from year to year there's always a chance of an overly deadly strain coming about that could spread like wildfire. At the beginning of the 20th century there was such a pandemic that killed hundreds of thousands, I think. The yearly vaccine is part of an effort to reduce the chances of that happening.

Posted by: Bil at October 17, 2004 12:59 AM

http://michellemalkin.com/archives/000672.htm

There's more discussion on Malkin's post, and a link to Medpundit at the bottom.

Posted by: Mike S. at October 18, 2004 10:59 AM

FIWI: My grandmother passed away essentially from flu-like sypmtoms about two years or so ago. She was 96. She is the only person I know to have died of flu. While she was in relatively good health for a 96 year old, it really was not unexpected. I don't know if a flu shot would have made a difference (both my parents are physicians so I would assume the best available steps were taken). Also, with all the morphing of the flu strain, a similar situation that has occurred with certain frequently used penicillins could develop - the virus could become immune to the vaccine the more it is exposed to it.

Posted by: c matt at October 18, 2004 2:52 PM

"I read a piece recently by Michael Fumento, who has done some good work on putting AIDS into context, but unfortunately, overstates his case and is given to distortion. He noted that more people are dying, in the US (obviously not in Africa) of the flu every year than AIDS.

Yeah--but look at who (or rather, at what age) is dying of AIDS and look at who is dying of the flu."

You wouldn't know from this, but I actually compared deaths from AIDS to five other diseases or conditions (such as obesity).

http://www.fumento.com/disease/aidsenough.html

In fact, so many people die of cancer that if you just look at the age category most likely to strike AIDS victims, 20-34, you still have 5,000 deaths compared to a TOTAL of 16,000 AIDS deaths for the last year for which we have data. Further, if you think it valid to devalue a life based on age, then it should be noted that almost half of AIDS deaths are in intravenous drug users -- not exactly significant contributors to society or the economy.

Posted by: Michael Fumento at October 18, 2004 7:48 PM