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Feds Backtrack On Flu Vaccine Scare

Last week, I wrote a story about the needless panic being generated by the Mass Media and the various federal agencies over flu vaccines you never really needed to take in the first place -- tainted or not. Now, as reality has sunk in that flu shots aren't going to be as readily available, we're starting to hear much more sane advice about the "absolute need" for the vaccine.

What launched this mass panic attack, experts say, is a "scarcity mentality" similar to runs on banks during stock market crashes and convenience stores when hurricanes brew offshore. For example, in Seattle, people are paying $105 to ride a high-speed ferry for a shot at the dock in Victoria, B.C.

For many years, most people ignored the government's vaccination campaign, and as recently as last year, 4 million doses of vaccine went unused, even though an alarming early strain of influenza emerged and gained attention because several children died from it, particularly in Colorado.

A Georgetown University gerontology researcher probably said it best: "Right now the entire country runs on fear and we don't need to live like that. We somehow think we should be disease-free all the time. If you're leading a healthy life and you get sick with the flu, you're probably going to get through it."

The alarming thing about this piece is the often-quoted "killer statistic" that breeds much of this needless fear: The flu's average annual death toll in the United States is 36,000. But if one goes to the more comprehensive overall death report you will find only 753 people died of flu in 2002, more than 93 percent fewer deaths than the CDC is reporting.

And the numbers get even more interesting. According to 2003-04 flu numbers compiled in a report by Stephen Cochi, acting director of the CDC's National Immunization Program, only 143 children died through April 2004 as a result of influenza. A sidenote: If you want a better understanding behind the reasons the CDC justifies the use of thimerosal -- a preservative in vaccines that contains 49 percent ethylmercury -- take a look at their short report on Thimerosal-Containing Influenza Vaccines.

ABC News October 26, 2004

Chet October 9, 2004

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