Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine Flu Vaccine, Benefit / Risk, and Common Sense

A few posts back, I touched on how governments and traditional news media are reacting to swine flu / influenza 2009 H1N1. There's been some good sense used: and some goofiness, too.

Goofy Governments

Some governments aren't paying attention to facts, or (likely enough) are following some agenda that has little or nothing to do with swine flu.

For example, Egypt's government started slaughtering pigs. There was no reason to kill the pigs: they showed no indication of being infected, and there hasn't been a confirmed case of influenza 2009 H1N1 in Egypt yet. Egyptian pig farmers rioted. (CBS News)

Egypt isn't alone: Ecuador, Cuba and Argentina banned travel to or from Mexico. (CNN) France wants all Europeans to stay away from Mexico. Never mind that WHO is saying this is unnecessary - and useless. (CBS News).

Meanwhile, one old-school broadcast news network can't get over the horror of 1976.

Rehashing 1976 - - - Swine Flu Vaccine, Statistics, and the Epidemic that Wasn't

CBS News can't seem to get over the horror of 1976, when some people developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). That's a serious neuromuscular disorder. Some of them died.

People who got the swine flu vaccine were about 6 times the number of people who would get GBS anyway. About 1 in 80,0001 people who got the vaccine developed GBS. Researchers couldn't find anything that linked the vaccine with GBS, apart from that coincidence: so the vaccine was banned. (April 25, 2009)

CBS News called the vaccination program "deadly mistake."

They went on to say that the vaccination program was useless. Here's their reason for saying there was no point to the massive vaccination program: "No swine flu epidemic ever erupted. The outbreak was limited to Fort Dix, and about 500 Americans likely died as a result of the vaccine...." (CBS)

With Logic Like This - - -

It's genuinely sad that 500 people died: maybe (or maybe not) as a result of being vaccinated.

Let's say the Ford administration had followed CBS-like wisdom and not vaccinated Americans. We don't know what would have happened. History didn't happen that way.

We do know what happened in 1918. About 40,000,000 people had to be buried because they died as a result of getting 'Spanish influenza.' As I said, we'll never know whether or not the vaccinations stopped an epidemic like the one in 1918.

Second-guessing people who have to make decisions can be a rewarding occupation. Looking back on what's been done, and what happened as a result, editors are free to make up what would have happened if only they had been in charge.

If editorial opinions match what a publications readers want to believe, Monday morning quarterbacking can turn a profit.

On the other hand, just because an editor would like something to be so, doesn't mean it's really so.
Let's Outlaw Fire Extinguishers?
My guess is that breathing fumes from fire extinguishers is bad for you. And, that drowning lab rats in fire extinguisher effluvia would prove it "scientifically."

Next, a panel of experts could find a building where there had been a small fire, which was put out by using a fire extinguisher - and where someone in the building got sick later.

"Obviously," the fire extinguisher made the person sick. And, since the building didn't burn down, the fire extinguisher wasn't needed.

So, the experts would say, fire extinguishers should be banned.

Silly? I agree. But, that's pretty close to what happened with swine flu vaccine in 1976.

Is the risk - a 1 in 100,000 chance of having an adverse reaction to a vaccine - worth the benefit of being inoculated against a disease that could kill you: or someone you infect?

I think it may be: although I'd rather there be no risk involved with anything, ever.

The real world does involve risks, though: and I think America has become risk-averse. Which isn't always a good idea.

List of posts relating to Swine flu 2009; and list of background resources:

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