Michigan has suffered enough. We’ve been devastated by economic and manufacturing changes, leading to mass unemployment, poverty, and poor education. That last one is really killing us.
According to news reports, more than half of Michiganders plan to forgo vaccination, mostly for reasons that betray a lack of education. This is at a time when schools across the state are closing their doors because of the flu. They aren’t closing their doors out of irrational fears, or for quarantine or isolation purposes, but because so many people are sick that it’s not worth it to keep the doors open. The economic impact of school closures and parents needing to stay home is likely to be significant.
Why aren’t people planning to get their vaccines? In conversations I’ve had with friends, family, patients, and staff, many are planning on getting the seasonal vaccine but not the H1N1 vaccine. Here’s what I’m hearing:
- “I’m afraid of this new vaccine, that it’s not tested enough”: this vaccine has been tested, but more significantly, it’s not different from the usual flu vaccines. All flu vaccines are made the same way, growing the relevant strains in chicken eggs and refining the product into vaccines. The swine flu vaccine would have been incorporated into the seasonal shot if there had been more time. This year, we’re stuck with two similar jabs.
- “I can’t afford to get sick, so I’m not risking a flu shot”: this reasoning is understandable but backward. Flu shots do not contain live virus and cannot give you the flu. We give flu shots during cold and flu season
- “I’ll wait to see what happens. If lots of people are sick and dying, I’ll get it then”: lots of people are sick, and some are dying. The point of vaccination is to prevent disease, and this takes time. If you wait until you are surrounded by sick people, the vaccination may not have time to produce the antibodies you need to prevent infection. Also, we don’t have an infinite number of vaccines (although supplies are anticipated to be pretty good)—the longer you wait, the more likely you are to not be able to find a vaccine.
I’m seeing in my clinical practice several cases of flu a day. These numbers are unusual for this time of year, and even compared to previous flu season peaks, it’s pretty crazy around here. Please don’t be a victim—educate yourself and be proactive.