Thursday, September 17, 2009

All swine flu, all the time.

I am not a doctor. You should not take medical advice from me. You should not believe what you read on the internet without checking into it further. You should not take medical advice from celebrities. You should look to experts for your information and advice, experts who have devoted their lives to medicine and science. If you have a medical concern, you should ask a doctor. If you are not comfortable with the way your doctor interacts with you, get another doctor. Do not delay treatment or ignore symptoms. Take care of yourself and of your family. Get regular checkups, get blood tests as they are recommended, and get your vaccines and boosters as necessary.

Yes, I said the dreaded word: vaccines. Vaccines are a safe, effective and important part of our health care system which have enabled us to live longer healthier lives without fear of polio, measles, mumps, smallpox and innumerable other deadly and disfiguring diseases.
I realize that there has been a lot of fear mongering lately about vaccines, a lot of lies and bullshit spread through the media regarding what vaccines do or do not cause, what they do or do not contain, whether they are or are not tested. I also realize that occasionally some people do have reactions to vaccines, and some people cannot get vaccinated because of their age, other illness or the state of their immune system. That is why it is so important for those of us who can get vaccinated to make sure we are: to ensure herd immunity.

You may have read my other blog entry in which I rant and rave (semi-eloquently, I hope) about the hysteria promoted by Andrew Wakefield and Jenny McCarthy. There are LOTS of links and information about vaccines in general, and some specific links regarding Gardasil and Swine Flu.
If you don't want to read that whole thing, here are a couple of links that sum up (albeit, extensively) what you need to know about vaccines:
Dr. Steven Novella: Vaccines and Autism, and The Truth About The Evils Of Vaccination

However, I think the Swine Flu is enough of a concern to merit its own blog entry from me. And that's what this is.

I get the flu vaccine every year now (since my mother went through chemo and her doctors recommended it for close family members) and when it is available I expect I will get the swine flu vaccine, too.

Please read the following links which debunk many of the hysterical anti-vax claims about the swine flu vaccine:
- Dr. Harriet Hall: The Anti-Vax Movement and Swine Flu
- Dr. Steven Novella: H1N1 Vaccine and GBS
- Dr. Phil Plait: More antivax distortion: the Swine flu version
- Joseph Albietz: An Influenza Primer
- NY Times article: Preparing for a Stressful Flu Season
- NY Times article: One Vaccine Shot Seen as Protective for Swine Flu
- NY Times article: Vaccine for Swine Flu Is Ahead of Expectations
- Dr. Harriet Hall: Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering
- General flu woo dissected by Dr. Mark A Crislip on his Quackcast podcast.
- Swine flu myths busted.
- More reasons to ignore the anti-vax myths about H1N1, by Joseph Albietz from Science-Based Medicine. Emphasis on the SCIENCE here.
- Here, Orack deconstructs a bunch of anti-flu-vaccine bullshit that Bill Maher has been spewing.
- This NY Times article is anecdotal and not data, but it is a good example of why the H1N1 is so dangerous, especially for pregnant women. Some of the religious attributions are a little annoying, but I'd rather people believe that God made vaccines possible and get them, than rely on prayer.
- Skeptoid podcast about vaccine ingredients.
- Special H1N1 report from the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe, featuring Drs. Steven Novella, David Gorski, Mark Crislip and Joe Albietz.

Many of the myths and lies propagated by the current fear mongering (that it's not adequately tested, that it's made from people, etc.) are addressed in these links, and any concerns you might have may well be put to rest after reading them.

I'm not insisting that everyone get the vaccine, even if it is available, but I am recommending that you talk to your doctor about it, and about other vaccines, and decide with a medical professional as to the best course of action for you. Some people are at higher risk than others for different kinds of illness and would benefit more from vaccines. Some people have no need for certain vaccines, but most people would do well to get them all.

You don't have to believe me, but you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have for your health and the health of your family. That's what your doctor is there for: to help you make wise medical decisions and, unlike homeopathy or other "natural" and "alternative" remedies, to ensure that the care you receive is well-tested and evidence-based.

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