I get to high-five a baby today!

Because I got vaccinated against the flu yesterday!

I also get to high-five the elderly, pregnant women, and people who are immunocompromised.  In fairness, I can’t spot the last category by eye, so maybe I can look up the prevalence statistics and high-five the appropriate proportion of passersby.

These are all categories of people who are at higher risk from the flu and may not be able to be inoculated themselves.  They depend on herd immunity, enough people like me and my fellow inoculees to create a firebreak, and slow the spread of the disease.  This year, it may be especially important to go out and get vaccinated, as the CDC will not be able to track the spread of the flu or intervene for the duration of the government shutdown.

So go forth and get vaccinated, blog-readers!  And look upon babies with pride!  And, as part of this year’s gentle nag, I’m going to create a vaccination check-in comment thread for this post.  If you’ve gotten your flu shot, post there, and I’ll donate $5/reader (up to $100) to the Against Malaria Foundation.

– — –

I’m  a big philosophy of medicine nerd, so it was funny to experience a phenomena I’ve written about when I got inoculated.  I didn’t get a shot; I got an attenuated (weakened) live virus via a nasal spray.  It was much less uncomfortable than a shot, so much so, that I noticed I felt mildly anxious about whether it worked.  After all, it hadn’t hurt.

Magical thinking about medicine is common.  We tend to expect powerful interventions to have powerful side effects.  When people were first being inoculated against smallpox, people had trouble believing that such a mild intervention could protect you against a powerful disease.  Mind you, the mild intervention was cutting your arm, so you could put smallpox pus into the wound, but people were skeptical enough to prefer inoculation regimes that had you drink diluted mercury til you vomited.  That’s the kind of treatment you could feel truly confident in.

And I did snigger a bit at John Adams and others when I read about this approach to treatment in Pox Americana, so it was a bit humbling to be reminded yesterday that I fall prey to the same biases.

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About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011 and lives in Washington DC. She works as a news writer for FiveThirtyEight by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."


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