I admit to being an advocate for ethically produced vaccines. I’m also against involuntary vaccination and very much an advocate for parental rights. However, I believe in education and (strong) encouragement to take advantage of vaccines, which are a fantastic tool to prevent disease.
I’m often confronted with objections about the actual seriousness of flu, the lack of effectiveness of the vaccines and fears about the side effects of the shots. So, in my geeky way, I spent some time doing research.
Here’s the CDC data for influenza infection rates and effects in the US over the last year, including deaths. And here’s a review of actual historic vaccine effectiveness.
Even with the variation in effectiveness of vaccines, prevention is always better than any treatment, since treatment effectiveness will also vary according to the health and risks of individual patients. Vaccines are the best prevention we can offer.
Hospitals and medical facilities work to prevent – and to detect – iatrogenic infections: handwashing, gloves, masks, isolation, active infectious disease department surveillance, etc. The trouble with so many diseases, including influenza, is that they are contagious before the symptoms are obvious.
This week, friends are sharing an article about objections from nurses who are required to either be vaccinated or wear a mask during flu season. (I won’t share that article because it’s nearly a year old, points to out dated information from as far back as 1990, and is full of false accusations and inaccuracies.)
The most recent data that I found shows that a requirement for health care workers (HCW) to choose to either wear a mask or be vaccinated reduces infection in those workers by 74%-88%.
However, the studies on effectiveness for prevention of patient infection weren’t as conclusive. The problem is that the studies available were conducted in nursing homes (not in hospitals) where patients were exposed to many more people than simply HCW and only about 12% of the HCW actually got vaccinated.
One thing to remember about reports on side effects: all of them are present in the general population. The important data is whether there’s a higher incidence in the vaccinated population than in the controls.
Here is a study on flu vaccine safety last year, as reported by over 70,000 Australian patients. There were no serious events, and only about 1% sought “Medical Attendance” (saw a doctor) for events, usually fevers.
Thanksgiving is next week, with its travel and visiting – and spreading of germs. Expect cases to increase in time for Christmas and New Year, as usual. Please think about getting your vaccine, this week.
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