In spite of an overwhelming endorsement from medical experts, some folks continue to be skeptical about the flu vaccine.
That skepticism hasn’t been helped by television and radio commentators, one of whom went so far as to say in 2010 his listeners would be idiots to get a vaccination.
Asked soon thereafter by CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” what she thought about such talk, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius didn’t hesitate.
“Well, I tend to like to get my medical advice from doctors and scientists,” she said. “And that’s what we would urge people to do.”
We join in that recommendation.
Part of the concern about vaccinations grows out of a federal program in 1976. Roughly 40 million people got shots, and about 400 developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a form of paralysis. Some died.
Scientists were never able to figure out what caused those 400 cases, but some say it might have had no connection to the shots. About 140 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the United States every week.
In any case, medical experts argue that not taking the vaccine is a lot more dangerous than taking it.
Some point out that for the vast majority of patients, the flu is no big deal. Its victims will feel lousy for a few days, and then they’ll be back at work or in school, good as new.
Why, then, should people take the risk of getting the shots?
The answer, the experts say, is that in a very few cases, the flu can be a very big deal. It can be deadly. Influenza kills between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans every year.
And the only way to protect yourself from becoming one of those victims is to take the vaccine.
Thus, the advice from the experts is straightforward: Get a vaccination.
Children under 6 months are too young for the vaccine, but everyone else under the age of 25 should get it. So should pregnant women and anyone caring for youngsters under the age of 6 months. The target groups also include health care and emergency medical service personnel, and anyone between 25 and 64 with a chronic illness or compromised immune system.
What will happen if people ignore that advice? Medical experts say the answer is simple: A lot more people will die.
If you want to be protected, get the shot.