Christchurch Radio Personality casts doubt on Flu Vaccine

By Michael Edmonds 06/04/2011

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.

0 Responses to “Christchurch Radio Personality casts doubt on Flu Vaccine”

  • Quite disturbing. Willing to trust what could loosely be called an experiment with an incredibly small sample size over larger well designed studies just because he’s in it. Trouble is, that you don’t automatically get the flu if you’re not vaccinated. If neither Barnett nor his fellow get sick, I wonder what the chances are that we’ll hear that it’s not needed or ineffective.

  • When you say compare how sick they get, did he specify the flu or any sickness. If the vaccinated get a cold will he conclude the vaccine doesn’t work?

  • Thanks Carol.

    Darcy, I’m guessing as it can be difficult to tell the difference between a cold and a mild flu, he won’t attempt to differentiate, which is one of the things that concerns me

  • I haven’t had the flu for over 10 years and probably had a cold a handful of times in that period and have never had the flu jab. I don’t take supplements and I wouldn’t consider myself fit either.
    My brother who exercises more than I do, is a flu magnet – he’ll have the flu 2 or 3 times over winter. Last year several work colleagues went for the flu jab – 2 of which later got the flu and had it – as they said “twice as bad”, while others didn’t.

    • Thanks for describing your experiences. How do you distinguish between the flu and a cold? Perhaps your brother gets colds rather than the flu each year?
      It takes a few days for the flu jab to work, so it is quite possible to catch the flu after getting the jab, though suggesting that people got it “twice as bad” begs the question, “twice as bad” as what? There is no way to tell how bad they would have gotten the flu if they hadn’t had the jab.
      I get the flu jab every year and only have had the flu once, fairly mildly. This is probably because the flu I caught was not one of the ones included in the flu jab. Influenza is a pesky critter which keeps mutating, but I’ll quite happily accept the protection is does give me. Having a job that brings me into contact with lots of people and pretty bad luck I expect I would probably get the flu several times a year without immunisation.