Flu warnings are government advice, not orders
Published: Saturday, February 19th, 2005
If people want to understand why more and more Americans increasingly take lightly declarations by our federal government, they need only look at the policies regarding flu shots. The National Institutes of Health reported last week that flu shots don’t really help elderly people, despite the government’s insistence that older Americans continue to get their shots. The report, published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is based on a 30-year study by NIH researchers, who found that giving flu shots to elderly people doesn’t seem to have saved any lives. This flies in the face of the national vaccination policy, which implies that national epidemics could arise if everybody doesn’t get the vaccinations officials say they should. “There is a sense that we’re all going to die if we don’t get the flu shot, Maybe that’s a little much,” said the NIH report’s lead author, Lone Simonsen, a senior epidemiologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Intervention, who set federal vaccination policy, say they’re not changing their recommendations. “We think the best way to help the elderly is to vaccinate them,” CDC epidemiologist William Thompson told The Associated press. Such is the business of the nanny state, which increasingly seems to believe that it has the duty, and the authority, to tell every American how we should live our lives. The CDC insists each year that every American who can get a flu shot do so, even in years when the center itself acknowledged that in some years the vaccines being given did not attack the strains of flu that were going around at the time. Its policy suffered a setback last year when questions about the reliability of one major vaccine source led to shortages. Federal officials restricted access to our youngest and oldest residents, those who are least resistant to disease. They went as far as to say that healthy adults didn’t have such a critical need for flu shots anyway. Now that supplies are plentiful again, those same officials have reversed course, and once again are calling on all Americans to get their flu shot. Americans don’t seem to be listening, though; although the restrictions have been lifted and everybody can be vaccinated, countless doses of the stuff are going unused. And with warm weather approaching, don’t expect many people to rush to get the shot, even though a couple of months remain in flu season. That’s not such a bad thing. We don’t advocate any behavior that might put public health at risk by any means, but we welcome any sign that people are choosing to make up their own minds about what they should and should not do, and not simply rushing to get a flu shot because government officials tell them to. Most health workers, we’re sure, do have the best interests of the public at heart. But every individual does well to remember that he or she has final control over his or her own body, and normally can take government pronouncements at recommendations, not orders. If recent history regarding flu shots has led more people to that realization, then it certainly has had a very healthy effect on this country.
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