Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bad News this Finals Week

What would a student in Humans and Viruses dread to hear during finals week?
And yes, it's worse than finding out you're out of meal plan dollars.

How about “Oops, that free flu shot you got this year doesn’t actually work.”

I was hoping this would be a headline from The Onion, but unfortunately it’s the real deal. The CDC has collected some early data from this flu season, and they have found that they predicted wrong. However, there is some good news. The CDC also writes that vaccinated people may face a milder form of the flu if they do become infected. Influenza is a mastermind of generating genetic variability; it’s amazing that the CDC ever makes good vaccines for it!

But wait, there's more!

Unfortunately, the anti-vaccination crowd has seized this opportunity to spread misinformation. Despite what they try to tell you, you can’t actually get the flu from the vaccine. Myths like these may explain why flu vaccination rates are relatively low among (about 42% among adults and about 59% in children this year).

So what’s the solution to the spread of misinformation? One might think that informing the source would help, but some new studies suggest just the opposite: a “backfire effect.”  In some recent studies, it turned out giving vaccine-fearful individuals information about the safety of vaccines actually made them less likely to report that they are willing to get vaccinated. The CDC seems to have its hands full already, and the plague of anti-vaxxers certainly isn’t going anywhere.  


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