A Pandemic of Paranoia

People are freaking out about Swine Flu, but lets look at the history of pandemics.

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In the early 19th Century, after Edward Jenner’s smallpox vaccine came into wide use, the first anti-vaccination movement sprung up. Its adherents’ warnings ranged from the legitimate  (vaccination could, as they claimed, lead to serious infections, due to the unsanitary conditions under which it was performed) to the downright nutty (the vaccine, which was derived from cowpox, would cause patients to sprout cow-like appendages).

Today the swine flu vaccination campaign has brought the anti-vaccination wackos out of the woodwork again – and thanks to the power of the Internet, they can spread their nonsense more quickly and broadly than ever before.

The claims about the H1N1 vaccine run the gamut from simply weird – it contains toxic chemicals like Agent Orange, anti-freeze (ethylene glycol) and squalene (a substance linked, erroneously, to Gulf War syndrome) – to sheer tinfoil-hat-brigade lunacy – the government is going to compel everyone to get the vaccine and herd those who don’t into camps; the government will take away your children if you don’t get them vaccinated; the vaccination campaign is designed to GIVE people swine flu as part of an “evil depopulation campaign.” (Why the government wants to depopulate the country isn’t clear; presumably it’s to make the coming socialist-communist-fascist takeover easier.)

Anybody interested in a detailed rundown and rebuttal of these and other claims should check out a report by Jess Henig on factcheck.org, who writes: “The claims are nearly pure bunk, with only trace amounts of fact.”

Henig continues: “We’ll say it straight out: There are some real risks to the H1N1 vaccine. There’s nothing shady or secretive about them, though – they’re exactly the same as the risks of the seasonal flu vaccines. …  In fact, everything about the vaccine is just like the seasonal flu shot, which has been administered to hundreds of millions of people. ‘It’s a new virus, but the vaccine is made the exact same way,’ Dr. Bruce Gellin, director of the National Vaccine Program Office at HHS, told us.”

Personally, I couldn’t care less if the anti-vaccination idiots choose to refuse the vaccine and risk a severe and potentially fatal disease (292 known deaths in the US as of yesterday). But their propaganda, which is all over the Web, is discouraging parents from getting their children vaccinated.  And that, as I see it, is little short of criminal.


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