This morning, as I drove over to my HMO for an appointment in their first four-hour flu shot clinic of 2014, I half expected to be one of just a handful of people there, an admittedly pessimistic presumption based on the increased visibility of the anti-vaccination “Back to the Middle Ages!/Bring out your dead!” crowd in the last several months, with some sources believing — incorrectly as it turns out — that they were increasingly present in suburban liberal enclaves, which phrase happens to be one of the accepted definitions of the nearby town my HMO is in. Imagine my delight at seeing the car park full to brimming — and it was all for vaccination since they only do urgent care appointments on Saturdays. There were at least a hundred people outside and inside, about half children and half adults, and this in the first hour of the first of about two dozen clinics scheduled.
They organise these events with great efficiency, so I was in and out in about six minutes. I mentioned to the nurse that I was happy to see so many people there despite the anti-vaccination fad. She said she was glad, too. She had learned early why community immunity was a good thing and said she was therefore surprised to hear many students in nursing school question why vaccinations were important at all. I said, “Because Jenny McCarthy does not have a medical degree except maybe in her fevered imagination, and we live in the 21st century.”
I’ve been getting flu vaccine since 2002, a few years after I ended up in hospital over Christmas week with double lobe viral pneumonia — the worst kind, and so bad that the nurses doubted I’d survive my first night in hospital — brought on in my weakened state after I was hit with a particular virulent strain of influenza. Back then, I tended to get sick as a dog most winters, often out of work anywhere from ten days to two weeks. Such winters are a thing of the past for me. My own anecdotal evidence is that I haven’t had flu since 2002; hardly statistically significant, but plenty good enough for me. This year’s US national vaccine is quadrivalent for the first time, protecting against the four most likely strains instead of just three.
On the topic of people speaking out of their arses on medical topics, on “This American Life” a few weeks ago, Ira Glass mentioned another podcast (auto-play audio) called “The Gist”. The third “Gist” excerpt he presented was about George Stephanopoulos unbelievably directing this bit of chowderheadedness at the director of the Centers for Disease Control: “Dr. Friedan, as you know, a lot of anxiety here in the United States about the spread of Ebola, whether we’re taking an unnecessary risk. A tweet that Donald Trump put out just the other day, he said that the US must immediately stop all flights from Ebola-infected countries or the plague will start and spread inside our borders. Act fast. How do you respond to that?”
Host Mike Pesca’s ‘talk show karaoke’ that follows, where he provides the unmuddled truthful answer that ought to have been given, is splendid. At the end of the segment, Glass said, “If words really were magic, in all fairness, Donald Trump would vanish from the Earth in a puff of smoke after that.” Ah, well. A boy can dream, can’t he?