The forces of Antivax have gained ground … they’ve managed to make a significant minority of Americans fearful of something that’s about as ordinary as old socks. According to an AP poll (reported via the Hartford Courant):

As the first wave of swine flu vaccine crosses the country, more than a third of parents don’t want their kids vaccinated, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll.

Some parents say they are concerned about side effects from the new vaccine — even though nothing serious has turned up in tests so far — while others say swine flu doesn’t amount to any greater health threat than seasonal flu.

It is true that the swine flu has turned out not to be as dangerous as authorities believed it might be … but that doesn’t mean preventing its onset it is a bad idea, and if enough people are vaccinated, it will be even less of a problem than it is now.

Some are falling back on the mantra that this vaccine is “untested”:

Jackie Shea of Newtown, Conn., the mother of a 5-year-old boy named Emmett, says the vaccine is too new and too untested.

“I will not be first in line in October to get him vaccinated,” she said in an interview last month. “We’re talking about putting an unknown into him. I can’t do that.”

What Ms Shea doesn’t realize — but should — is that each year’s conventional flu vaccine is formulated only a few months before it’s distributed. There’s been an accumulation of decades of experience with flu vaccines. So the H1N1 vaccine is not “new” and it’s certainly not “untested” … it’s just a more recent formulation of a very old vaccine type.

It’s unfortunate that the forces of Antivax appear to have so much influence over US parents. We’re lucky that this wave of swine flu or H1N1 may not be severe … but that doesn’t excuse ignorance and stupidity, and it doesn’t excuse the misinformation that’s being thrown around about vaccines.

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