Health officials in Christchurch have extended free flu vaccinations to include people under 18 in the wake of the February earthquake. With the colder weather moving in and many students now living and learning in more crowded environments this seems like an exceptionally good idea – the last thing Christchurch needs is a severe flu epidemic to deal with.
So imagine my dismay this morning listening to Simon Barnett on MoreFM state that he isn’t convinced that the flu vaccine does any good, in spite of what he has been told by many medical professionals including his brother in law. So he asked listeners to call in and tell him what they think.
The first three callers all said they had had annual flu injections over the past 5 to 10 years and had never contracted the flu. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this. Even though it is anecdotal evidence, it shows that health education about vaccines is working. Mr Barnett still seemed unconvinced and followed these calls by reading out two contrary text comments saying that vaccines are conspiracies by drug companies to make money and that keeping healthy is all that one needs to do to avoid getting the flu.
Still unconvinced about the effectiveness of vaccines, Mr Barnett has a plan to test them. This year he and a colleague are going to stay unvaccinated so they can compare how sick they get with two colleagues who do are vaccinated.
While I’m sure that Mr Barnett means well, I find it a little disturbing that, as a media personality he has chosen to publically cast doubts on the effectiveness of vaccines, based not on evidence but on an ill defined feeling of “not being sure” about vaccines. I also find it disturbing that he believes that a loosely controlled “experiment” involving four people will help him decide if vaccines work, while ignoring the advice of medical professionals whose opinions are based on sound research.