Do you get your flu shot? Vaccines and choice, why it is important.

Do you get your flu shot?

A question long-asked at doctors offices that suddenly appears to have a bigger meaning to some.  Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock or somewhere deep in space for the last 5 years you know the debate is on about vaccines in this country. Pro vax and anti-vax have become hot button words akin to pro-choice and pro-life. Both sides fight adamantly for what they believe, both sides believe their decisions are being made based on facts. And like any belief-centered social grouping in modern times, both camps are certain theirs are the only real facts.

A recent visit to the doctor’s office quickly reminded me of this new phenomena. My standard reply to the do you get a flu shot question, no for anyone who’s interested, was met with a sneer, clearly demonstrating to me which camp the questioner falls into. Now you might think that all medical professionals fall into the provax camp.  Perhaps the most interesting thing about the debate surrounding vaccines is the fact that scientists and medical professionals actually do not all believe all vaccinations are safe and effective. Watching for subtle signs in their facial expressions, or for them to outright tell you their opinion, may give you a clue as to their vaccine belief system.

Why are vaccines being treated as though they are a belief system is something that’s very much been puzzling me lately. I understand that there are certain vaccines that protect us from diseases that are very deadly and we definitely don’t want running rampant through our communities. This isn’t however the case with all vaccines. Some vaccines protect against rarely deadly diseases like chickenpox, others like the measles vaccine, have shown themselves to offer variable protection and recently their efficacy has been called into question. The most recent outbreaks suggest that vaccinated individuals are shedding measles vaccine into the population causing outbreaks among vaccinated individuals.  Other vaccines have very excellent efficacy rates and appear to offer extensive, if not lifelong protection against disease transmission.

As vaccines have been developed to cover a wide range of diseases by a number of different methods and using a number of different technologies, it only makes sense that not all vaccines are created equal. Vaccines are not equal in strength, are not equal in necessity, they are not even equal ineffectiveness. So why approach the vaccine debate as though it is an all-or-nothing event? This is where I believe we are going wrong as most “anti-vaxxers” are not anti-vax so much as pro asking questions. 

With such a wide array of effectiveness, known side effects, and diseases being covered by these vaccines, it only makes sense to look at them on a case-by-case basis. This is exactly what you would do with any other medication or substance you put into your body. You  would not, for instance, take every pain medication just because the studies surrounding Tylenol suggest they are fairly safe. Those studies are not supposed to convince you that narcotic pain relievers are also okay. Despite the fact that both substances treat the same condition. This is how many people look at vaccines as well. 

If science is truly the guide for those standing behind the safe and effective and world-saving vaccine push then they will not mind this approach a bit.  In fact,, they will have taken that approach themselves. If they are pro all vaccines, well, then that is a sure sign they’ve not delved too deeply into the science and are advocating for what they have been told is good for them.  While I appreciate their instinct to trust the health industry, anyone who’s spent a great deal of time inside it will tell you that isn’t safe.

In a perfect world, where everyone involved in making decisions about what people will put into their bodies for the sake of health actually wanted, as the end result, the health of all bodies, vaccines would be safe. In the world where we are today, where profit margins and sales rule the roost, vaccine safety will and should always be the question, not the assumption.  

Do you get your flu shot?  (Remember, this is a no judgement zone!)

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