(stolen from my blog)
Wow… looks like my last blog post was a few days after we moved into the house and here we are about 10 weeks later, man I must have been busy or something…
I’m not here to blog about trivialities, although life has appeared to speed up and the week goes so fast I can hardly anticipate the weekend before it comes and once it does it seems gone before I know it. No, this is a post about something more nefarious, MEDIA FEAR!
My facebook status today has been:
Y2K, terrorists, anthrax, SARS, bird flu, west nile, swine flu… I wonder what it will be cool to be afraid of next year.
And really, doesn’t this seem to be the case? Are we “Generation Fear”? It is obvious that the media can’t cover everything in this globalized time we live in, and media cycles so fast that a hostage situation one day becomes a faint memory 2 days later. What will keep the sheeples attention then? It isn’t death and disaster, that passes after a few days, it isn’t triumph and joy, that gets old even sooner. News is about gossip, celebrity, outrage and fear. More has been said about “balloon boy” or Kanye “Asshat” West than things that really matter or make a difference to YOUR life.
And this of course brings us to a favorite ponderance of mine – “Honey-One” or H1N1, or the pig-apocalypse as the media calls it. There is a definite us versus them attitude when it comes to people talking about vaccination, and what is your moral obligation to help protect your family and community. Here is my take on it:
I have had one flu vaccination in my life, I have also had the flu 0 times in the last 15-ish years (my memory isn’t what it used to be). I have a bit of an understanding about vaccination, and I generally believe it is a good thing for diseases which do not evolve rapidly (if it is ONE thing I know, it is genetics, bitch, check my PhD!) But with the flu the powers that be are taking a few isolates that they figure will predominate in the next year and putting all their eggs in one basket as it were. They make a vaccine that will protect you from viruses that are a snapshot in time, maybe 6 months to a year un-evolved from the state where you will likely meet it. If the virus has changed, you will still get sick, indeed estimates are that vaccination is only 75% effective. Part of this lack of effectiveness is also that fake infection (aka vaccination) does not truly mimic what happens in the body during a true infection. A sustained viral infection allows the body to come up with many novel antibodies and T-cells that will recognize both viruses and virally-infected cells in your body and destroy them. The sustained presence allows those cells that make good immunity to be signalled to divide so they have good numbers if ever needed again. It is my belief that this true immunity gives you a better shot at making some lasting antibodies, ones that will be effective for years to come instead of being “disposable” and useless next year. Then there is the theory of “original antigenic sin” which can be simplified as saying your body makes an antibody against last year’s model and when it comes time to defend the body it launches a failed proliferation of shitty antibodies instead of trying to make new ones that will work.
So now that we’ve given some reasons why vaccination is not really a great alternative, let’s at least ask why we should vaccinate against H1N1. Let’s see… initially cases in Mexico were quite deadly, particularly in young, healthy people instead of the usual senior/weak crowd. But, that isn’t the case anymore, it appears that this flu strain isn’t really anything special compared to seasonal flu, it has taken a “chill pill” for those of you who like analogies. If that is the case, that if I get swine flu, I am no more likely to die than if I just got regular flu, and I don’t believe the regular flu vaccination is necessary, why have I been back and forth over considering an H1N1 vaccination for myself?
That’s really it, all the hype and fear have made me second guess my well-informed decision not to vaccinate myself. Damn you, pro-fear media! Well, I’m not going to have any of it. I am going to avoid the vaccine, and keep risking that if I do get sick I’ll get better and have an even more capable immune system as the lasting legacy.
Are people who get vaccinated dumb? No, they are taking a gamble that the flu they get exposed to is the same one they got vaccinated against which is probable. Especially for the old or infirm where any flu could be deadly it is wise to get vaccinated. Are people who don’t get vaccinated crackpot conspiracy theorists? Maybe, but some are also well-informed deep-thinking and considerate people who just think mass-frenzy isn’t the way to public health.
And one last point before I get off my soap-box. It is a possible scenario that H1N1 mutates a bit to become both more virulent and different enough from the vaccine-strain that a vaccine doesn’t help. In this case false-security will be more detrimental than the common sense of staying away from public places (sorry, Christmas shoppers) and covering your face when you sneeze.
It is also possible (and more likely) that people who catch a less-virulent strain will recover faster, or just be bed-ridden less and they will be the ones spreading the virus to more people compared to the really sick ones who become isolated. This will give us some nice Darwinian natural selection for a flu that makes you sick enough to help it spread but healthy enough that you get out there and spread it.