With flu season upon us, Adam Ruban’s piece for NPR hit a nerve for this reader. As Ruban notes, “tens of millions” of expired H1N1 vaccine were destroyed this past summer — meaning that millions of Americans decided to forgo vaccination and take their chances with a potentially deadly flu strand. According to the CDC, H1N1 was responsible for approximately 274,000 hospitalizations and and 12,470 deaths between April 2009 and April 2010.
Those of us who chose not to vaccinate — and who were lucky enough not to contract H1N1 — have something called “herd immunity” to thank for our health. Basically, susceptible people rely on vaccinated people to stay healthy. Plenty of healthy people in America are now taking advantage of herd immunity, or at least, trying to.
In 2005, for example, an outbreak of measles — a disease once considered eliminated from America — infected 34 individuals in a small town in Indiana just a few miles from where I grew up. The cost of treating those individuals was $167,685, or $4,932 per patient. In 2008, a child in San Diego inadvertently infected an additional 11 children. The total cost for that outbreak? $10,376 per child.
Clearly, the costs of not vaccinating are high. So why don’t we vaccinate?
Okay, it’s not just Jenny. Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest a link between thimerosal and autism, plenty of parents think otherwise. And media blitzes like this one add fuel to the fire:
It’s playing at movie theaters in big cities starting today — have you seen it yet?
Don’t let the glitzy ads fool you. The flu vaccine is safe. It’s safe for most populations, including infants, pregnant women, and the elderly.
It’s also free for UMN students, staff, faculty — and their families — at Boynton’s convenient walk-in clinics. So what are you waiting for?