Swine Flu – How Cynical Can We Afford to Be?

Swine Flu – How Cynical Can We Afford to Be?

With current estimates now as high as 22 million cases of H1N1 and possibly as many as 6,100 deaths, how much longer can we afford to criticize the need to immunize? Although critics are right in pointing out the dangers of any new vaccine, how many more cases does it take to convince a cynic?

Unquestionable, we live in dangerous times. Just picking up the newspaper is often enough to give any sensitive human being the chills. Yet perhaps the biggest crimes are the ones that we could have prevented. In the 1918 flu pandemic (also known as the Spanish Flu), nearly 50 to 100 million people died worldwide from a subtype of H1N1. Despite these horrific numbers, it pales in comparison to the Black Death that swept Europe during the middle ages and achieved a status entirely of its own of almost biblical proportions.

Sure I’m no doctor and everyone is entitled to their opinion, but many of us probably wouldn’t even be here if our parents and grandparents hadn’t been immunized. Yes it’s true, some people have had bad reactions to the flu vaccine. Sadly, there has never been, nor will there likely ever be a perfectly safe vaccine. Nevertheless, considering how quickly this flu strain has spread, it’s important to keep our options open.

Having two brothers that died from a rare genetic blood disease and a sister who passed away from breast cancer, I know what it is like to have sickness in the family. Whenever my brothers experienced what was known as a crisis, often the only thing that brought them back was a blood transfusion. Despite this lifeline, fear over the possibility of tainted blood lead to the refusal of a transfusion and now my last living brother is no more.

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Yes it’s heart breaking to hear about cases where people may have experienced complications from a new vaccine. While we’re quick to assume the worst when these reports occur, how often do we hear praise for all the lives that were saved? Despite the evidence of far more people being helped than hurt, perhaps it is not in our nature to view it this way. But if no one had the guts to be immunized, how many more people would not be spared from H1N1? Sadly, we’ll never know but for every person immunized, that’s one less chance of a child being infected and not seeing his 10th birthday.