This is actually the question I posed to two of my dearest friends the other night over dinner. After all the hype over the swine flu and the vaccine development in China, I wanted to get others’ opinions. My overall reaction to the flu vaccine has always been the opinion that it is a scam by the pharmaceutical industry to make more money off of people’s fears. Viruses mutate a lot. The idea that a vaccine can be developed and ready by October and have the right strain to fight off a virus that will hit its peak in February befuddles me. I just don’t see how it is possible. Plus we can’t trust China to make safe children’s toys, but now they are the leading experts on vaccines? I find that interesting.
The question of vaccines has become very controversial in recent years. To me, the question boils down to personal risk versus social responsibility. Yes, we each take a personal risk every time we get vaccinated. That risk is somewhat ameliorated by the personal benefit of protection from that disease, but all vaccines have side effects. I can’t imagine living in a country where the mumps, small pox, and polio still ravaged cities and villages so I am more than willing to roll up my sleeve and take the shot. I think vaccinations should be required for attendance in public schools. I think that is a good use of government regulation for overall public health.
But the flu just doesn’t seem that serious to me. I have a healthy immune system, good insurance and sick time at work. I can afford to be sick and allow my own immune system fight off the invaders. I understand others don’t. Plus, we won’t wipe out the flu if everyone gets vaccinated. The virus will still be around. However, if I interacted every day with people with depressed immune systems due age or disease, I would likely get the flu vaccine to protect them. What is a little sniffle to me is likely catastrophic for them. Did you get the flu vaccine? Why or Why not?