The flu shot doesn’t work, and seat belts are a genocidal plot

Oh America, you do love a good baseless conspiracy.

The latest? That this year’s flu vaccine doesn’t work. The truth, as usual, is somewhat more nuanced.

It’s anyone’s guess where our nation’s unhealthy distrust of science comes from.

Is is simply a healthy skepticism?

Is it a sign of our historical attachment to relatively intransigent and unforgiving religions (just ask Galileo, who was “pardoned” only a few years back for his crime of suggesting that the earth rotated around the sun, and not the other way around)?

Or has the Republican party’s fixation on fallacy so jaded the American public that no one trust anything any more, least of which scientific “truths” that come from the god-awful guvmint.

Flu shot via Shutterstock

Flu shot via Shutterstock

We’ve written before about the rather-vocal fringe that claims that vaccines are tools of the devil guaranteed to give your child autism. (Hint: They’re really not, and they really don’t.)

But back to the matter at hand. Dr. Katz over at HuffPo explains that while this year’s flu vaccine may not be the perfect vaccine at preventing the rather-nasty strain of the flu that’s going around, that doesn’t mean that the vaccine is entirely worthless. In fact, the vaccine still may lessen your symptoms even if you do get sick.

And boy is this a nasty strain going around. My cousin, his wife and their kid all got sick. Apparently it’s a nasty 104F fever along with a nasty cough that doesn’t go away for month. My nephew, who’s staying with us, also has it now, and as I have asthma, in addition to some meetings I can’t miss next week, I’m going to get a prescription of Tamiflu, which may, or may not, help either prevent catching the bug, or at least help it not be as severe if I do get it.

I did a little research on Tamiflu, and I won’t say the jury is out on it. But the jury is mixed. While some poo-poo its effectiveness (Tamiflu works by suppressing viral replication), from what I’ve gleaned it does seem to work to a degree. The only question is the trade-off between the risks of the drug vs the benefits. It seems there’s more consenus about using the drug for someone who’s already showing symptoms than for someone who is has been exposed to the virus.

Anyway, I’m on my Tamiflu, as are mom and dad. And flu-ridden nephew is going to get his shortly. So, time will tell. But what a nasty flu this is.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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52 Responses to “The flu shot doesn’t work, and seat belts are a genocidal plot”

  1. A few days a go I ended up going to Emergency Room because of this crazy flu that’s going around. I asked the doctor give me Tamiflu and he said there’s no way he would. He said no reputable doctor wil

  2. LITOSWEED says:


  3. Jafafa Hots says:

    Oh, I see, Well, your well-reasoned and detailed argument has rebutted me completely.

  4. LITOSWEED says:

    NO !

  5. krinks says:

    Anti-science idiots? You mean the people that see the facts that prove AGW a silly hoax that does nothing more than take money from the poor and give it to billionaires and six figure researchers who will parrot anything as long as the funding keeps coming?

  6. Spring Texan says:

    Tamiflu is more appropriately called Scamiflu, NOT where to turn:
    what was more shocking was that this trial, WV15912, which took 401 adults with at least one cardiac or respiratory condition, had an end result of a nonsignificant 1-hour reduction in symptoms. I repeat only 1 hour, only 60 minutes, only 3,600 seconds.

    When the Cochrane reviewers were finally able to look at and sort through the body of information, and not just the abstract data, they came to similar conclusions, and reported that there were no differences for hospital admissions, reductions in confirmed pneumonia, or other complications.

    However, I don’t want to say the drug did nothing, as there were increases in symptoms of nausea (NNH 28), vomiting (NNH 22), and headaches (NNH 32).

    Yes, Tamiflu is too good to be true. Patients who have the flu feel bad, they want a drug to help them feel any amount of relief. Sadly, we have nothing for them. We can encourage hydration and rest, but that’s about it.

    The easy path is to write a prescription for Tamiflu and move to the next patient. The hard path is to discuss why you are not going to write the script to someone who doesn’t want to hear it.

  7. Jafafa Hots says:

    Sadly, there is plenty of science denial in the left as well. It just comes in the form of the “autism is caused by vaccines” and “rub crystals on your forehead to ward off cancer” New Age baloney.

    The right has “Intelligent Design” and the left has people who just say the words “Quantum Physics!” as if they even know what it means.

  8. SkippyFlipjack says:

    OK but that’s a different sort of generalization than I was taking issue with. I’ve encountered this recently where I’ve seen people ask “Why do [conservatives/liberals] always resort to insults?” I imagine people think that profane posting is the hallmark of one side of the spectrum because that’s the side they tend to get into drag-down arguments with. The generalization that only one side argues in a certain way, though, is just false.

    You can find supporting evidence for the idea that Republicans are anti-gay or liberals are anti-fracking. But when you get into generic, non-political concepts like ‘liberals like arguing that something is either 100% effective or worthless’ you lose me. I agree that lefties tend to be into non-traditional medicines but folks that are exclusively non-traditional are in the small minority.

  9. karlInSanDiego says:

    Comprehensive flu vaccination was never a given, doesn’t break 45% (over 4year old population who vaccinate) in the US, and people refusing to vaccinate against flu has very little to do with the anti-vax movement of late.

    Another way to understand the antigen drift (and shift) problem with seasonal vaccination against flu (and any disease that mutates easily) is likening it to overuse of pesticides, herbicides or antibiotics . You fight nature with selective prophylaxis, because you believe you can conquer it, for your particular benefit. But nature’s mutating processes (evolution) creates pesticide resistant bugs, herbicide resistant superweeds, and MRSA, which now become everyone’s problem because the usual suspect won’t fight it anymore. With viruses, the mutation is fast, same season and happens inside of one person. If you can’t stop flu, because in the majority of the population (including world-wide population and animals), you’re not trying, then vaccination in the 45% range is causing some new drift that would not happen if you had contracted the disease without the vaccine. So, one can argue, for the benefit of those who can’t afford to get flu, the vaccine should be reserved (as it has been for decades before, and is the case for many places still, outside of North America) to those who cannot afford to get the flu (healthcare workers, or those with larger risk to their own health).

    Sorry if that’s an oversimplification, but so is guilting everyone into inoculation when it is questionable if the flu vaccine is doing what you believe it is doing, reducing flu and ILI. Here’s a metastudy on inoculating healthy population against flu:
    From that conclusion: “The results of this review seem to discourage the utilisation of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure. As healthy adults have a low risk of complications due to respiratory disease, the use of the vaccine may be only advised as an individual protection measure against symptoms in specific cases.”
    Encouragement of flu vaccination for healthy people is a very new phenomenon, and is not shared traditionally in other countries, though that is beginning to change. People who are avoiding the flu shot are not delaying the eventual wiping out of influenza (research it, there is no aspiration to do that anywhere). But people who are encouraging 40, 50, and 65% inoculation are increasing drift, so you’re lessening the chance that the vaccine will protect the at risk. Contrary to this year’s CDC revelation where they already knew going into the season, that the drift had occurred, it happens every year. Either way, the vaccine won’t protect the at risk (or will marginally).

  10. rmthunter says:

    Thanks. I’m flattered. I even cleaned up the line breaks.

  11. Im promoting this comment to a post, it’s great.

  12. I think you’re sensing condescension and mockery for a reason.

  13. “Of course the argument is that you are doing it because a) you don’t want to infect an unprotected person with weak immunity and b) some flu is dangerous to even healthy people.” Yes :) An entire school closed down in the Chicago are because 1/3 or 1/4 of the students are out sick, and the same for the teachers. Then there are old people, and people with compromised respiratory systems (like me and my asthma), who can actually die from these infections. And the more people who don’t get vaccinated, the more chance we all have of catching this. I read the article, it’s interesting. But it’s already been proven that the ant-vaccers are bringing back a lot of diseases.

  14. Hillol Ahmed says:

    “Health officials don’t know why rates are low so far this year, but are
    concerned about mixed messages from the B.C. Nurses’ Union, which is
    questioning how well the vaccine works.
    read more visit: [email protected]

  15. Houndentenor says:

    Generalizations are only useful when talking in general terms. Obviously there are always specific differences. But if I say that Republcians are anti-gay that is accurate. Can you find specific pro-gay Republicans? Of course. Does that negate the general comment? No. And usually I hear this objection from people who ARE anti-gay and want to use the exception for cover or people who want to act like there are no consequences to their votes for anti-gay politicians.

  16. Naja pallida says:

    The research which is ongoing is working towards an all inclusive vaccine. Just a couple years ago they came up with vaccine that covers all A-type influenza variants – which are the most common ones. After another five or six years of clinical trials, it’ll probably be the only flu vaccine on the market. Significantly reducing the problem of ‘missing the mark’. But the reality is, we’ll never be rid of the flu in the way we’ve eliminated polio or small pox, simply because it is so much more prevalent. But especially if people continue to fall for the denialist routine, that is only seeking to harm them.

  17. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I don’t think generalizations are dangerous, just usually wrong.

  18. BeccaM says:

    Got that right Technically, it wasn’t the flu that killed my great grandmother. It was the resulting pneumonia, which then triggered a heart attack, neither of which would’ve happened if she hadn’t caught the flu in the first place.

  19. silas1898 says:

    I’ve gotten very mild flu symptoms after getting a flu shot a few times, but the last time was in 1999. A little achy, a little tired, a little scratchy throat for a couple of days.

    Not even close to the misery of the full blown flu I got once. I never miss a shot after that bout 30 years ago and haven’t had a bad case since.

  20. silas1898 says:

    lol. That was almost 2 years ago. I wonder how it’s going. Interesting the wedding wasn’t in Ohio.

  21. Naja pallida says:

    The research and development costs for the flu vaccines was, and continues to be entirely publicly funded, and the cost of actually producing the vaccine is recouped by the pharmaceutical companies before the product is even shipped by bulk, seasonal pre-orders. Most of the mark up in actual cost to the consumer comes at the retail end, from one’s health care provider. Somewhere around 30% from wholesale cost. So aside from eschewing science, nobody is really cutting into pharmaceutical company profits, or discouraging them in any way, by refusing a flu shot. While vaccines are a wide market, they’re not high dollar drugs. Nor do they have strict patents protecting the producers, allowing them to monopolize the profit. No vaccine even ranks in the top 20 of money-makers for big pharma, despite selling millions of units per year. We can thank university and government for that because, in the end, public health recommendations (such as vaccination schedules) are not made by big pharma, but by government and university scientists, funded with your tax dollars for the express purpose of the public good.

  22. karlInSanDiego says: (original paper that article cites: )
    Influenza vaccination encourages antigenic drift. So unlike Polio, and MMR vaccinations, there is real science behind the problems with influenza vaccination because even if everyone vaccinated against flu religiously, when you don’t manage to get past the minimum threshold of vaccination, difficult because flu vaccines are often missing their mark, the act of vaccination creates more antigenic drift, thus negating the effects of the vaccination because it can make them ineffective, while sometimes creating mutations with more dangerous properties (and sometimes less). This was first demonstrated in a 2008 study on Mexican chicken vaccination against flu ( ) . I’m not saying that means everybody should forego a flu shot, or that this presents a danger to anyone who does, because I’m merely a layperson reading articles pretty over my head. But this new understanding actually reinforces an old philosophy that vaccinating against something you will never wipe out, may have some negative consequences. It’s not anti-science to say so. It’s anti-science to lump the flu vaccine in with a slate of other infectious diseases, without addressing the different challenges you face vaccinating against an everchanging virus.

    So vaccinating against common flu for the sake of avoiding discomfort wouldn’t be a valid reason for doing it. Of course the argument is that you are doing it because a) you don’t want to infect an unprotected person with weak immunity and b) some flu is dangerous to even healthy people.

  23. Jafafa Hots says:

    Not getting the flu vaccine puts other people’s lives at risk.
    You can go your whole life without getting it, never feel you have gotten the flu, and literally have been the vector that killed someone. Some older person, some small child, some person with a compromised immune system.

    Not getting a vaccine because you are “anti-big pharma?” I’m sorry to tell you, but there are no local artisans hand crafting organic vaccines. Some things take large capital investments to make.

    If you prefer the old pre-vaccine ways of dealing with flu, that means you prefer millions of deaths every year, millions of survivors permanently disabled.

    Science denial deserves condemnation whether its over global climate change or rejecting medical science.

  24. Jafafa Hots says:

    What people don’t understand is not that flu vaccines sometimes “don’t work,” it’s that they take time to produce and stock.
    So every year the CDC looks at the statistics and sees what strains are circulating, and the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to combat the 3 or 4 strains that seem likely to be the most pervasive that next season.

    Sometimes a strain spreads that is NOT one of the ones that the CDC thought was going to be pervasive. That’s the year that the “flu vaccine didn’t work.”
    It actually DID work, but people are catching and spreading a different strain. Thing is, if they hadn’t produced the vaccine, those predominant strains still MIGHT have spread uncontrollably… so the vaccine definitely DID work in the individual, giving them immunity to those strains it was designed for, and may also have prevented a nationwide epidemic of that particular strain. So it may have also saved thousands of lives anyway.

  25. Naja pallida says:

    It isn’t the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.

    Some people have no ability to draw correlations between cause and effect. In the case of disease, the problem comes that people can’t bring themselves to understand that they’re not just putting their own lives at risk, but everyone they come into contact with.

  26. Houndentenor says:

    I agree that generalizations are dangerous. Yes, there are science deniers on the right, especially with regards to climate change and evolution. On the left I know a great many people who are skeptical of “traditional” medicine (or as the rest of us call it…medicine). They are into all sorts of “woo”. I wish your generalization of liberals were true, but one doesn’t have to read Huffington Post very long to find all kinds of nonscientific nonsense from the left, just on different topics related to science and health. (Note: I have also met right wing fundamentalist Christian anti-vaccine nuts as well as lefty ones. There’s all sort of crazy out there, but let’s not be blind to the fact that there’s a lot of nonsense on the left as well as the right.

    And yes, I know a lot of liberals who were against the ACA because it wasn’t single payer. And they are added in to the numbers in polls of people who didn’t like the law which the right tout without revealing that some didn’t like the law because it didn’t go far enough.

  27. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I would disagree for a couple reasons. 1) People are people, and generalizations about people on any side of the political spectrum, except about the political view specifically, are usually false. 2) If anything, liberals are known for being more accepting of “grey area” while conservative ideas tend take a more hard-line approach (the ‘daddy party’, the law and order folks, ‘strict construction’ view of the Constitution, etc). I have an easier time seeing liberals accepting a “mostly good” solution over conservatives (and I’m aware this may violate my reason 1). 3) The idea that “the more people get the flu shot, the better for everyone” is supported by science, and for whatever reason conservatives tend to be more skeptical of science. (I guess I’d say they tend to prefer faith, “individual freedom” and free market over scientifically supported views.)

    I’m curious about examples of liberals thinking “if you can’t have 100% then it’s worthless.” Maybe policy arguments, where idealists would prefer, say, a full single-payer health system or nothing over the ACA?

  28. Houndentenor says:

    I mostly hear such arguments from people pretty far to the left. As I am surrounded by right-wingers, I’ll stand by that observation. If there is evidence to the contrary I’ll be happy to retract it since my observations may not be typical.

  29. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Those with weakened immune systems shouldn’t be getting vaccinated. Those around them should. This is what doctors say, and I trust them over me.

  30. nicho says:

    I have a friend who refuses to get the flu vaccine. He claims the vaccine gives him the flu and that, without the shot,mhe never gets the flu. He’s sick every year, but calls it something else. Three years ago, he came down with the flu on a business trip. He spent five days in bed in a hotel next to O’Hare Airport. He finally dragged himself onto a plane (good luck, other passengers) and flew home. He got worse and went to urgent care where they diagnosed him with pneumonia. The following year, I urged him to get the vaccine, reminding him of the bout he had with the flu the previous year. He claimed he didn’t have the flu. He had pneumonia. .??

  31. nicho says:

    It’s called “community immunity” or “herd immunity.” Therling is right. Having some members unvaccinated threatens the whole population. You can look it up.

  32. therling says:

    I’ve heard all of the various flu myths found in this article.

  33. therling says:

    Because even if you have an immune system that can successfully fight of the virus, you can still carry it to those whose can’t.

    “…up to 30% of flu virus carriers display no symptoms…”

  34. Demosthenes says:

    Nice piece, Mr. Aravosis. I think the anti-vaccine crowd is a bit “overly caffeinated”, myself.

    I got a flu shot last winter and caught the flu! It was obviously a different strain.

  35. kladinvt says:

    Speaking as one of “those individuals”, I haven’t had anything remotely like the flu in close to 45 yrs; so why should I get the flu vaccine? Maybe those with weakened immune systems could benefit, but vaccinating an entire population is at best overkill.

  36. kladinvt says:

    The level of condescension and outright mockery in this flu vaccination VS no-flu-vaccination is nearly as hostile as the debate between carnivores and vegetarians. Not getting the flu vaccine, doesn’t necessarily mean someone is “anti-science” as much as they may be “anti-BigPharma”. Which corporations do you trust and why?

  37. SkippyFlipjack says:

    “Mostly on the left”? What do you mean?

  38. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I’ve seen this conversation from friends-of-friends a couple of times on Facebook recently. Someone posts an article from CNN saying that this year’s flu shot isn’t as effective (ignoring that doctors say to get it anyway) and it attracts a bunch of comments like “I never get it and I haven’t had the flu”. That’s silly of course, but it’s not just about you — if everyone got the flu shot, the incidence of flu would go way down and we’d see a lot less seniors and little kids dying of it.

  39. rmthunter says:

    Several years ago, when H1N1 was the latest fashion in flu, I was advised not to get vaccinated because I was undergoing radiation therapy for prostate cancer and my immune system was compromised. So I didn’t get vaccinated, didn’t get the flu, and got pneumonia instead. Some years it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

  40. rmthunter says:

    After a history of susceptibility to upper resp infections, including the flu, and a couple of really scary episodes with pneumonia, I get vaccinations religiously. They do vary, not only in effectiveness but in individual reactions — this year’s flu shot had me in bed three hours later, wrapped in quilts and shivering, nose running like a faucet. I slept for eleven hours and was fine. Last year, I had no reaction to the shot. But I’d rather be sick for a couple of hours than for days, if I’m going to be sick at all.

    As for the American rejection of science, chalk it up to fundamentalist religion and the right-wing noise machine. Science challenges Scripture because it describes the world as it is, not as God or his interpreters say it’s supposed to be. The press, which is terrified of the right, is only slightly more reliable than the Internet, which puts it somewhere in the range of Louie Gohmert as far as real information goes. And science reporting is appalling — I used to read the science section of NYT years ago and scratch my head — it was pretty sketchy, even then. (I don’t know if anything’s changed for the better, but several years
    ago I read a report that most Americans read at a fifth grade level,
    which is inexcusable, and which probably has a lot to do with the level of public discourse.)

    Americans on the whole don’t seem to be equipped to handle the basic concepts and methods of science, which aren’t really that arcane, because they aren’t taught to think rationally. Even the labeling and information signs at the zoo have been dumbed down.

    And now I’m getting depressed just thinking about it.

  41. nicho says:

    They say laughter is the best medicine. This has had me laughing for hours. It flew completely under my radar and I haven’t seen it online until just yesterday. You know John Boehner — he who hates immigrants, minorities, and marijuana legalization? Well it turns out his daughter has married a Jamaican guy, with dreadlocks down to his ass, and an arrest record for marijuana possession. (Maybe I should read the Daily News more.)

    I have nothing against Jamaicans, dreadlocks, or weed, but I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the Boehner household when the nuptials were announced. No wonder Boehner always looks like he’s seriously constipated.!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_970/spl532081-002.jpg?enlarged

  42. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    It is a nasty flu. I had it, and I never thought it would go away. I couldn’t sleep for the first week. The headache and body aches are horrible. BTW – I had the shot, but I kept thinking it would have been worse if I didn’t have the shot.

  43. Indigo says:

    There’s rum in the cake and whiskey in the tea
    but brandy’s too fancy for the likes of plain me.


  44. BillFromDover says:

    The Internet(s) tubes contain an almost unlimited wealth of information for those willing to spend some time digging for it.

    Unfortunately, some would rather access the easy ones usually clogged with feces.

  45. BeccaM says:

    And if a few splashes of Irish whiskey, brandy or rum should find its way into that tea, so much the better. ;-)

  46. Indigo says:

    Hot black tea with honey and a splash of lemon. If that doesn’t fix it, go to bed and stay there like a good neo-Victorian.

  47. Houndentenor says:

    For some reason the argument that if something isn’t 100% effective then it’s worthless has become popular (mostly on the left). It’s nonsense. I can reduce my chance of getting the flu by x% and reduce the severity of the flu if I get it? That sounds like a win to me. Anecdotal evidence has replaced scientific studies as the most valued form of information in too many circles. It reminds me (since seatbelts were mentioned in the headline) of being a child when the seatbelt laws were new. I heard stories (never documented of course) about people dying in the fire of a car crash because they were stuck and couldn’t get their seatbelts off in time. Did that ever really happen? And how many times (if it ever did) vs. people who were thrown from their car in a crash because they weren’t wearing a seatbelt. I did have a friend in college who was killed just that way. (She was thrown completely through the windshield and wasn’t even driving all that fast.

    This is what happens in a society where people are not taught how to think, how to examine evidence, and how to spot logical fallacies. I had a relative proclaim over Thanksgiving dinner that “traditional medicine” was better because it had been around for thousands of years longer. Do you know what we call “traditional” medicine that works? Medicine! This wasn’t from someone who is stupid. Just someone who can be conned into such nonsense because they don’t know how to look at evidence and question it rationally. #facepalm

  48. BeccaM says:

    Having lost one of my great grandmothers to the flu back in the 1970s (until she died, she was an incredibly healthy and hale woman in her early 80s), I take influenza very seriously. And whatever the bother or hassle or the sore arm the after the shot, it never leaves my awareness that yearly flu shots save lives.

    And it is for that reason I realize that if I do not get the shot, for whatever reason, and I end up catching the flu, it’s not just me I’m potentially putting at risk. It’s my wife. It’s anyone I come across who is immuno-compromised. It’s every kid with asthma, every elderly person with diminished lung capacity or heart issues.

    The idea that my laziness or negligence could actually kill someone is intolerable. I don’t know how I could live with myself if it happened. So I get my shot, every year. I was getting them even when I had no health insurance. Now, under the ACA, most current (non-grandfathered) insurance policies are required to include flu shot for free, with no co-pay.

    Plus, on top of everything else, getting the flu is an awful experience all by itself.

  49. Hue-Man says:

    They’re only following the lead of health care workers who’ve decided to ignore the science and nursing/medicine courses they took to qualify! (It’s not a cost issue – flu vaccine is free to health care workers.)

    “Only 62 per cent of health care workers [in Metro Vancouver] have received this season’s flu vaccine to date, according to the health authority.”

    “Health officials don’t know why rates are low so far this year, but are concerned about mixed messages from the B.C. Nurses’ Union, which is questioning how well the vaccine works.

    “That is unfortunate, quite unfortunate, when health care workers question the effectiveness of the vaccine,” says Dr. Meena Dawar, a Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.

    “Vaccines are truly amazing, they’ve saved numerous lives. I think we’ve probably failed in our education of health care providers if health care providers are still questioning the benefit provided by

  50. S1AMER says:

    One of the greatest health risks in this country today comes from anti-science idiots.

    Get a flu shot. Yeah, some years the shots are more spot-on for the season’s flu than in other years — but one thing is constant: People who don’t get flu shots get the flu, infect others, and sometimes die.

    Plus, in case you’ve never heard: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, basic inoculations (including the flu shot for people of all ages) are now free whether you get your insurance at work or buy your own. If you have kids, their shots and boosters are covered. If you’re over 65, Medicare pays for flu shots and the basic pneumonia shot.

  51. Houndentenor says:

    I have to admit that if I didn’t listen to some skeptic-themed podcast on which they interviewed experts in immunology and vaccinations, I might be gullible enough to believe some of the nonsense going around. It’s sad that our population is so uneducated about almost any topic that the basics have to be taught to people who should have learned them in middle school, but that’s what needs to happen.

  52. AndyinChicago says:

    There are two numbers that are associated with different flu strains. Remember H1N1? The numbers after the H and N are different forms of hemaggluttinin and neuraminidase. These are the two surface proteins of the virus and the two proteins that the immune system can detect. There’s a huge variation in the number of different variants on these genes; for flu, there are 18 hemaggluttinin genes possible. If someone gets two strains of the flu, the flu can mix and match various forms of these to create a new bug. So if someone had H1N1 and H2N2, the virus could reform to make H2N1, H1N2, H1N1, and H2N2. Usually, the major strains associated with flu breakouts go through a cyclic cycle. Every so many years, certain strains pop up, so one year might be H1N1, the second might be H2N2, and so on and so forth. Since the immunization protects only on a yearly basis, this pattern allows scientists to pick which immunization would likely best protect people. However, if a bunch of H2N2 breaks out in a year that H1N2 was predicted, you’ll only have partial immunity.

    The trends are strangely regular, and it’s a good thing to get immunized. But if you get the flu after being immunized, it doesn’t mean that your vaccine didn’t work, it just means that you didn’t understand what your vaccine was doing. Flu vaccines are incredibly safe, and you should get immunized, especially if you are or work with the very young, the very old, or the immunocompromised. And learn a little bit about the vaccine before you judge it.

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