I have found that in life, people do a lot of things without really thinking out whether a decision has any sufficient merit or not. This has also happened in my own medical practice as well – doing things over and over to only realize later that there had been no logical reason to do so. For instance, as an Emergency Room (ER) Doctor, any patient that came in with a dog bite was given a tetanus shot right after registration. So one day I looked up dog bites and tetanus and discovered that dogs do not carry tetanus bacteria. So, why the need for a tetanus shot? The answer I was given was because the ER has always done it and there will be no change. This was an end of story answer, regardless of any new discovery.
So, over the last few weeks I have been getting a lot of questions from my patients about the flu shot. While, my practice does not offer flu shots some hospitals require all of their employees to get flu shots or else they must wear a facial mask while working. While thinking about the effectiveness of the flu shot, I went to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website since they keep all of the data on the flu vaccine and it’s effectiveness in preventing the flu. According to the website, it seems that for the pediatric population (6 months of age-8 years of age), the flu vaccine is 61% effective in preventing the flu. In the middle age group of 18-49, the flu vaccine is only 18% effective in stopping the flu; The above 65 age group is at a 25% effective rate for the vaccine to prevent the flu virus. In my personal opinion, those numbers are not exactly encouraging for adults. Yet somehow people are being threatened with losing their job or other punishments if they do not get the flu shot by these hospitals and institutions.
To me, it goes back to the thought that there are a lot of things we do in medicine that do not have that much scientific proof or work behind them. It is surprising (and sad) to me that in a so-called ‘free society,’ how the medical establishments can try to force people into doing something that may not be effective and could make people sick. In the mind of what Mark Twain said, there are facts and then there are statistics.
John D. Young, M.D.