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Flu flack

Wow, did I set off a fury on my Facebook page last week when I posted my piece
on why I'm not getting the swine flu vaccine.

One acquaintance asked, "What are you doing?" And then tartly wagged his finger at me by saying that I used my "very public platform to advertise your marginal decision." Ingrid, a classmate of mine at Carleton, agreed. "You've got to put that soapbox to better use," she wrote. "You don't like needles? Who does -- and how old are we again?....Quit rationalizing and man up." Another Carleton chum, Manu, revealed he "wound up in the hospital from complications (affecting my heart, though minor thank goodness)...."

And my dear college friend Tamara, who is a pediatric infectious disease doctor, got into a heated back-and-forth with another Facebook friend over misinformation about vaccines, their impact and swine flu's impact on vulnerable populations. "I have seen kids die of H1N1," Tamara wrote.

In the week since I did that blog post there have been quite a few
news stories that justify my not taking the vaccine. Forget about the needle squeamishmess, which was 16 years ago and was overcome by years of being tested for HIV and a series of shots I had to take before a reporting trip to Nairobi a few years back. My argument, which never questioned the safety of the swine flu vaccine, rests on availability.

Government estimates, which were based on manufacturer estimates, were way off. While 9 million more doses have become available in recent days, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told the New York Times, only about 20 percent of the expected 120 million doses has hit the streets. Hospitals and clinics have had to cancel or scale back their vaccination efforts. Those who should get the shot are pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months, people 6 months to 24 years old, and people 25 to 64 who have underlying health problems. I meet none of these criteria.

My friend Michael K. made a very good point. "[E]ven if you don't want the vaccine for yourself," he wrote, "it is advisable to get the vaccine in order to protect the most vulnerable." Agreed. But unless my doctor tells me I absolutely have to be vaccinated and until there are more supplies to meet demand from those who truly need the shot, my sleeve will stay rolled down -- and I'll keep washing my hands.

By Jonathan Capehart  | October 30, 2009; 7:20 AM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Makes sense. Save the vaccine for those that really need it, like children or those with asthma.

Posted by: chrisp339 | October 30, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Of course, I don't think washing your hands is particularly effective at preventing the spread of flu since it is believed that most infections are caused by aerosolized droplets. You will reduce the spread of colds, though. Also, you'll help people develop even stronger germophobia so that eventually we'll just all wear hazmat suits and never have contact with another human being.

Or you could just get the vaccine.

Posted by: rlalumiere | October 30, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Come ON - they haven't produced enough stores of the vaccine for it to make sense for everyone to get one. Let the population groups that actually need it get a chance at it first!

Posted by: gm123 | October 30, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that not everyone needs one or should get one while there are short supplies, whenever a public figure says they are not getting the vaccine it is always cause for concern.

people, I find, don't read or comprehend very much. They see what they want to see. And I'll bet that a number of people did not care that you Didn't get the vaccine becuase of the shortage and because you hate needles.
They will just say that "OH Such and such did not get the vaccine so it must be dangerous" becuase they don't read the whole story.

People are out there making claims that this vaccine kills millions or that it is a government run vaccine to kills conservatives or that it will cause autism in children or that it will do this and it will do that.

All are wrong, but no noe thinks to research because we all know that anything that is written is TRUE>

Posted by: kare1 | October 30, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

That's rather disingenuous--I read your first column and you stated that you hated needles and that 16 years ago you had a friend get sick after getting a vaccination. People attacked the flimsiness of those excuses--one based on momentary discomfort, the other on some seriously poor understanding of the difference between coincidence and causality. Not getting the vaccination because there are others who need it more and not enough to go around is one thing, but that wasn't exactly what you said in your first column.

Posted by: Katya2 | October 30, 2009 12:54 PM | Report abuse

It's very disturbing how affirmative action has overridden sound scientific judgement in personal matters of life and death. This reminds me of Jocelyn Elders reign at HHS. Just get a Governor's daughter who knows nothing about anything advise a President of color who knows nothing about anything. Then the globalist butcher banksters can softkill us all slowly with "adjuvants" until we are mostly dead by 2050, all the while celebrating our diversity in a Orwellian police state.

Posted by: stanlippmann | October 30, 2009 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Fine, but don't go around infecting others when you get the flu. And, I hope you are self-insured so you don't run up the medical costs for those who are in your risk pool. Keep smoking, having unsafe sex, eat a high fat diet, and other high risk behaviors too but don't ask others to pay for your ignorance.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | October 30, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Many people have enough to worry about with the threat of AIDS everytime they are sodomized by a stranger , to be worried about sneezing into their elbow and getting a shot .

Posted by: borntoraisehogs | October 30, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

To cdierd1944:

Are you really Mika B? Stay away from the cupcakes, Dear.

Posted by: Bebunk | October 30, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Brilliant save, Mr. Capehart. You have successfully papered over your embarrassing homily to statistical ignorance of the other day (extrapolating a single 16 year old anecdote into some kind of predictor that provides guidance) with something approaching a sensible column with a point to it.

There *is* a shortage of this vaccine, and I want to see everyone who needs it most getting it. So I too will "just keep washing my hands" (and avoiding rubbing my eyes or touching my mouth when in public places). A moot point since I don't think they'd spend a dose on me anyway, given my demographics.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 30, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I know more than you, apparently. If you were born in 1944 you are much more likely than me (1959) to believe what the Government tells you. You figure you've only got another 15 years or so, and if you support the Government's line, it won't collapse and you'll get your Social Security check for the next 15 years. In this state of delusion, you are unable to critically evaluate scientific information, so you just act like a monkey and go along with the Government tells you.

Posted by: stanlippmann | October 30, 2009 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow, Mr. Capehart.

In your original post, you very clearly objected to getting the vaccine because of your long-standing squeamishness. You even suggested that, notwithstanding the fact that "folks at the Department of Health and Human Services [say the vaccine is] safe and efficacious", you have doubts about its safety, recounting the 16-year old story of your friend Kim who got sick shortly after having a flu shot.

You did not say anything about availability.

Do you not realize how many thousands of children in Africa have caught polio as a direct result of the ignorant urgings of vaccinophobes like yourself? How can you live with yourself, knowing that you personally will now likely be the cause of at least a couple American kids developing this disease rather than avoiding it? Let us hope none of them wind up in the hospital, or worse.

There is of course a very valid reason to refrain from getting the vaccine for as long as short supplies are being directed toward those most at risk. (After my asthmatic niece's parents spent a couple weeks trying to get her a shot, she came down with swine flu the very day it was finally available to her. Thankfully, her case turned out to be mild.)

But you did not write about that. Rather, you encouraged people not to get the shot out of fear. And that is unconscionable.

Posted by: Itzajob | October 30, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Jonathan for matter-of-factly mentioning that he has regularly had HIV tests. It is an important message to send without a lot of melodrama or intrigue.

Posted by: uh_huhh | October 30, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I am not getting the Swine Flu Shot either, I am healthy 46 without any underlying conditions and do not contact children or the elderly regularly. However, if I did, or when there is enough supply I will get a Swine Flue shot ASAP.

Your original article may well result in someone dying due to avoiding the H1N1 shot, in fact it most likely will kill some one.

Those, mostly on the Right, who are loudly lying their heads off about the safety of the H1N1 shot are going to be responsible for 100's, if not 1000's of deaths. I know the leadership of the Republican party and the Right holds their main white working class base in contempt, but this is the first time they have actually tried to kill them off. I know their are only 100 or so men under 35 who voted Republican, but why try and kill them?

Posted by: Muddy_Buddy_2000 | October 30, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for presenting a sensible side to a ridiculously hyped and politicized debate. Once the numbers are put into perspective (number of deaths per number of infections, deaths through the whole season in the southern hemisphere, and so forth), the reality becomes clear: h1n1 is no more lethal than regular seasonal flu, which does kill tens of thousands of people every year. We want to provide a vaccination or a pill or an otherwise easy answer for everything in our American society, and this epidemic is no exception. Our entire family, including our four young children, had this flu and we came through it just fine. The media and the government are doing a disservice to everyone by creating such rampant fear of a virus that is by all counts mild, except in certain high-risk populations, for whom the vaccination is appropriate. I have only heard one sensible mainstream voice in this: last night Sanjay Gupta admitted on CNN that the death rate per number of infections is actually low, but, because the rate of infection is so high, the death rate seems unusually high. And, by the way, I have carefully read all of the vaccine package inserts, as posted on, and the information on safety for children and pregnant women should concern everyone.

Posted by: GrainofSalt1 | October 30, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

A bigger man would have issued a mea culpa about the ridiculousness of your previous post. Everyone has the right to be ridiculous; just own up to it. Instead, you have now tried to change your argument to vaccine availability, which you do not bring up in your previous piece, as noted by many posters above. This attempt to deflect criticism is transparent and juvenile. You need to take the words of our 16th President to heart:

"It is better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."

Posted by: mnteng | October 30, 2009 2:58 PM | Report abuse

So you're not in a high-risk category, Mr. Capehart? Vaccine providers would ask you to wait anyway. Don't strain something patting yourself on the back, please.

Posted by: Scottynuke | October 30, 2009 3:01 PM | Report abuse

" wariness has nothing to do with concerns about safety. I just have this thing about flu shots."

For any of those who read this posting, but not the original, here is the level of this guy's dissembling.

Own up to it. You didn't state your oh-so-noble reasons for not getting the shot originally, but suddenly you want us to believe that your fear of flu shots is magnanimous.

Posted by: kenzoan13 | October 30, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Interesting to note the solid support for the party line on these shots.

I'm not getting one because the whole flu vaccine approach is misguided and likely harmful to the development of proper immunities. I'm also willing to bet that when all the dust settles after this flu season, we will see no appreciable difference in deaths from influenza in 2009-10 in comparison with other years. Thousands of people die from the flu EVERY year in North America. Vaccination has done little or nothing to change this fact. If anything, providing the vaccine to children causes greater problems down the road, as they will not (in many medical professionals opinions) develop immunity naturally.

What we are witnessing is a mass hysteria brought on by hyperbole and panic. Same as was the case here in western Canada regarding the West Nile Virus. Get a flu shot if you believe you have underlying conditions or a compromised immune system, but please don't preach and moralize to those who choose not to take the vaccine. If you happen to get the flu and aren't one of the miniscule fraction that develops serious symptoms, stay in bed, drink chicken soup and hot fluids and take an aspirin every so often. You'll be fine in a few days and your immune system will thank you.

Posted by: laslo23 | October 30, 2009 3:25 PM | Report abuse

any adult who would not take care of their health, because of the comments of a young blogger deserves everything that happens to them.
if you choose not to take the vaccine, don't blame others writings for your decision.
if mr capehart chose not to have annual physical every year would you do the same?
this is still america, do what is the best for YOU.

Posted by: ninnafaye | October 30, 2009 3:54 PM | Report abuse

I recommend people read the current _Atlantic Monthly's_ story on flu vaccines. There is little science behind the statements made about the value of flu vaccines. Given that my mother almost died from one two years ago, and I had an intense and powerful reaction to my seasonal flu shot this year, I'm passing on shots forever.

Posted by: Innana | October 30, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

You know what? THe stanlippmanns of the world love the internet. It allows them to spread their tortured view of everything.

Posted by: steveboyington | October 30, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

I'm not getting it because it's just the freaking flu! If I get the flu, then I get the flu. At worst, I'm out of work for a few days. No big deal.

Posted by: arlingtonresident | October 30, 2009 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan, the choice is yours. Just one request. Please don't come over for dinner for the next few months. My wife is pregnant and I have two little kids. Actually, you should just hang out with Gerson and Krauthammer.

Posted by: BBear1 | October 30, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

And people wonder why I don't use Facebook... Hey this is exactly why. The fact is posting there all the time is like playing with a pogo stick in a minefield.

If you can get the shot without trouble, you should. Otherwise, when you do catch it, try not to spread it at least. There are people who can't have the vaccine who need it, but we have to rely on everyone else to not act like completely selfish fools if we hope not to get the virus.

If you're increasing the risk of vectoring this thing with your behavior, well that would be selfish wouldn't it?

Posted by: Nymous | October 30, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

kare1 wrote: "People are out there making claims that this vaccine kills millions or that it is a government run vaccine to kills conservatives ..."


You've got to be joking, no one can really be that dumb can they? I sort of expect a lot of people not to understand if they're "conservative" or not (most `values' Republicans are not conservative), but I sort of expect they would know that there is no cure for stupidity. To think those things could possibly be true is neither rational, nor very educated.

Now I know what my ancestors must have felt like when people were contending the Moon was made of cheese.

Posted by: Nymous | October 30, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

We are ahead of the usual flu season, and before the deaths normally start. In a normal year about 30,000 people die of the flu. It is serious. So far this year, and note the season has not really stareted, 1000 people have died of H1N1.

What will it take to make you think this is serious?

Please do wash your hands often.

Being older, I will wait until all the vulnerable people have had a chance. Thanks to the crazies telling people not to take it, there should be plenty available.

Posted by: bill30 | October 30, 2009 7:19 PM | Report abuse

We are ahead of the usual flu season, and before the deaths normally start. In a normal year about 30,000 people die of the flu. It is serious. So far this year, and note the season has not really started, 1000 people have died of H1N1.

What will it take to make you think this is serious?

Please do wash your hands often.

Being older, I will wait until all the vulnerable people have had a chance. Thanks to the crazies telling people not to take it, there should be plenty available.

Posted by: bill30 | October 30, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

If your true reason for declining the vaccine is a fear of needles, opt for the nasal mist instead. Problem solved.

Posted by: ach73 | October 30, 2009 8:18 PM | Report abuse

Your profession as a journalist is daunting. Your opinions carry substantial weight on the un & illinformed. Sadly your logic on not taking the H1N1 vaccination is problematic. H1N1 has been deadly to certain segments of the population who are rarely killed by the flu. Those segments should be vaccinated without vacillation. Be factual & succinct.

Posted by: rdfoster | October 30, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

"The latest count shows 114 children have been killed by the virus in the United States since April, during a time when there is usually virtually no influenza, said U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Thomas Frieden" There is no vaccine to be found in Atlanta - home of the CDC - for adults or children. Argh! Government!

I know this sounds cynical, but I pray vaccine is not being distributed on the basis of whether they voted red or blue!

All we know here is that government is letting Atlanta down and putting all people, young and old, at risk with the lack of vaccine.

Posted by: 2009frank | October 30, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Good call, Citizen Capehart. ... Just research, read all or any of Stanford Universitys' 'info' since about 1978 ..... and You'll see what I mean. ... about what a 'vaccine' actually is. "Flu" or not, good hygiene is always 'in order'.

Posted by: deepthroat21 | October 30, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Capeheart!

Yours is a personal decision not based at all on any lofty ideal or complicated logic.
One wonders, why you are trying to portray it as a phenomenal decision that is newsworthy, thereby attempting to influence people of a lesser mental caliber than yourself (if that is possible) in there decisions to get the H1N1 vaccine or not.
Clearly, if this virus is bringing a real pandemic upon us, at the very least you are helping it. Now viruses lack a brain. What is your excuse?

Posted by: devesh_f10 | October 30, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

Get the vaccine get cancer.

MedImmune's Nasal Spray leaves you contagious for at least 3 weeks. See page 19 of their package insert. The medical community is responsible for these outbreaks because this is the very first vaccine that became available.

Read "Fear of the Invisible" by Janine Roberts. You will then understand why the entire world is facing an utterly devasting crisis. It is just a matter of time before the majority of the population is infected. These vaccine contaminants are sexually transmitted and genetic. After reading the book, you will also understand why cancer now affects 1 in every 200 children under the age of 10. 25% of these children will die despite treatment.

It is not the neurotoxins causing Autism. They only add fuel to the fire. What they do is allow these vaccine contaminant to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain.

Posted by: DawnCrim | October 31, 2009 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Vaccine not available. Try using Lipitor or some other statins. Do you know how to make a poultice? Ahhhhh government health-care!

Posted by: 2009frank | October 31, 2009 5:46 PM | Report abuse

It's a national emergency.... like Katrina...

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | October 31, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

I live in Thailand and the Swine flu hit us two months ago and everywhere you went you saw people with masks on it was scary looking. Then as time went on everybody realized that only very sick people had a problem with this flu it was weaker then the average flu you get every year. Last weekend I was traveling and in all the stations I stopped in I only saw one mask. This country spent a lot of money for a vaccine nobody needs, the swine flu is a joke and the pharmaceutical companies are rip-off artists. Paul

Posted by: 1pau1l | October 31, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

Addition to my comment. A vaccine only works when it can get a response from your immune system. Your immune system has to be healthy to respond. So the people who need the protection don't get it because their immune systems are compromised. Vaccines are a poor joke; better to take care of your immune system that is where real virus protection is.

Posted by: 1pau1l | November 1, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

I wonder how many people whining about not being able to get the H1N1 vaccine have also been whining about getting the government out of their health care?

Posted by: catmomtx | November 2, 2009 11:55 AM | Report abuse

This business of Govt. Health Officials and TV announcers reading corporation script, stating there is a shortage of H1N1 vaccine is a con-game to make it look like a shortage, so that they'll get line ups and sleeves rolled up 10 blocks down the street! Another psychological mind game! Watch and see what happens down the road they have literally thousands of truck loads of frozen vaccine!
Dr. Nancy Snyderman, billed as chief medical editor at NBC News, says when the HHS bureaucrat Kathleen Sebelius speaks, we have to listen. Snyderman tells the talking heads on MSNBC that we should all line up and take our eugenics soft kill H1N1 vaccine. Sebelius is a member of the globalist Bilderberg Group. Bilderberg advocates modern eugenics and plans to eventually reduce the world’s population by 80%, as called for by the 1974 UN Assessment on Biodiversity.
The H1N1 virus is a big deal, Snyderman pontificates, and it will “cut a swath” through the population. Distrust of the government and big pharma, she warns, may be fatal. “I can’t tell you what to do,” she adds, “but I can tell you what you should do, and what you should do is get this vaccination.”
There is the small matter that this virus outbreak is far less deadly than the normal seasonal flu, but that does not stop the editor from claiming that if you don’t get the vaccination you are playing Russian roulette.
Anchor Dylan Ratigan tells us to stop being lazy and frightened and get off our “derrieres” and get this vaccination. This is par for the course as the corporate media, in particular MSNBC, is a branch office of the CIA under Operation Mockingbird. The CIA was created by Wall Street and works in the service of the banksters and the global elite who have made no bones that they want to cull the herd and get world population down to around 500 million.

Posted by: PaulRevere4 | November 3, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

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