Flu season is upon us and clinics have been set up to administer flu shots. I’ve had the flu shot in the past, but not every year. I’m unsure as to the benefits and risks. Clearly, advances in medicine and vaccination have saved countless lives. I fully support vaccination against polio and the like.
Influenza: Nuisance and Risk
We’re accustomed to the flu and flu season; it’s often more of a nuisance to our lifestyle than the life-threatening risk of the past. That said, the flu can be more serious for some people than others. For example, the elderly, infants and those with compromised immune systems are more likely to suffer serious effects from the flu, including death. There are also strains of influenza that pose risk, such as H5N1. It can be easy to forget that influenza is an infectious disease.
Superbugs, Coffee Shops and Death
What about superbugs? When we vaccinate against estimated strains of influenza aren’t we contributing to an environment that is ripe for superbugs? Then again, what happens if I get the flu and one day at the coffee shop I come into contact with someone who has cancer. I don’t remember sneezing on him, but somehow he contracts the flu from me. He dies from complications due to influenza and his pre-existing health condition.
Moral Obligations and Mercury
As a member of society — a densely-populated urban environment — what about a moral obligation to my fellow humans to vaccinate myself; to contribute to the management of transmission of infectious disease?
I read somewhere that mercury is used as a preservative in flu vaccines. I don’t want to inject mercury into myself. But, I don’t want to kill that guy at the coffee shop either.
Shooting the Flu
“No, we can’t give you the flu shot,” the vaccine person scrutinizes me.
Have supplies run out?
“You are presenting symptoms.” Oh, you mean this headache, congestion, sore throat?
“Yes. That. Come back when you’re better. Although it may be too late.”
Life would be easier as a mountain-top-dwelling hermit.