Gonna Get on this Hobby Horse and Ride

Gonna Get on this Hobby Horse and Ride November 10, 2011

I finally made time to get a flu shot at a local CVS and so now you all get treated to a public health PSA (but it’s got an ethics/duty angle, so it’s totally technically within the scope of this blog).

I could just make a pitch from self-interest: get a shot so you won’t get sick.  After all, even without insurance, the cost of the shot (~$30 at CVS) is affordable for a lot of people, and, once you’re actually sick, you’re likely to wish you could take the trade.  Plus, for people my age, the least likely to get sick, you don’t even have to pony up that much since you can be covered under your parents’ insurance til 26, now that Obamacare is in effect.  But if you think you’re fine to weather the risk, or if you’d like a slightly higher-minded reason, I’ve got a much better pitch.

When you go in for a flu shot you’ll get handed a clipboard with a checklist like this one from the CDC website:

People who should NOT get a flu shot

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
  • People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

Since these people can’t be inoculated, their first line of defense is YOU.  They’re relying on herd immunity – the critical moment when so many people are vaccinated that it’s hard for the disease to keep leapfrogging susceptible hosts  until it gets to the truly vulnerable.

So when you skip a vaccination you can afford, you’re putting all those people at risk.  This is also the reason I’m really in favor of innoculating boys against HPV, now that the vaccine’s been approved for them.  Even if most boys won’t be affected by the virus (though more will than you assume; viral-linked anal and oral cancers are on the rise), why would they choose to by carriers for a disease that could sterilize or kill their partners?

So go get your shots, and you can feel a warm glow of happiness (or just the relief of duty fulfilled, if you’re a straw-man Kantian) the next time you see a less than six-month-old baby on the street.  The virus has one fewer avenue of attack thanks to your inoculation.

(poster from the ever-wonderful Vintagraph health and safety section).

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