There was a interesting juxtaposition of information that came my way this morning. No sooner had I read one of my blog friends who doesn't bother with flu shots, that an article about flu shots appeared on my desktop. Synchronicity is a delightful thing sometimes.
For a very brief summary (the whole article is linked above, and oh heck here again), there are H1, H2 and H3 years (also known as A, B and C). This is an H3 or C year, and H3 is the most difficult strain to control, so that the vaccine only gives us 33% protection.
I trust that I don't have to explain that 33% as greatly preferable to 0%.
It may just be that the 33% will work in my case. For example: I was exposed to TB as a kid and have tested positive all of my life, and this always raised the concern of people when the test was administered (as it was up until the early 80s in my case). But somehow, although I was exposed, I didn't contract TB, at least not in a meaningful way, and I am very grateful for this.
So perhaps a flu vaccine will help my body resist if I am exposed. It seems like both common and scientific sense to me. You can't rely on personal anecdotes such as A had the shot but still got the flu, but B didn't get the shot and didn't get the flu. It proves nothing.
Meanwhile, for the H1/A and H2/B seasons the efficacy of the shots rises to 67% and 54% respectively. The sensible path is very clear to me.
The lesson as I see it is to follow the best information available in life. Science isn't infallible, but it is self-correcting and gives us the best information possible. Consider weather forecasts, for example: they are not always perfect, but they're pretty darn good and reliable most of the time. If they predict an ice storm, I take sensible precautions. If the storm does not eventuate, I do not vow to never listen to another forecast.
One way to look at it is this: over three years let us accept that the chances of the vax working is 67%+54%+33%. The average for those three years for preventing the flu is over 50%, and that works for me, especially when the shot costs me nothing. I don't mean "nothing" in primarily monetary terms although it is that but also nothing in terms of time, the shot only taking a few minutes of my precious time in a whole year. It's also nothing in terms of side effects. I experience none.
I'll will accept those good odds that also come at no cost.
(Just a note that this post resulted from me thinking about two disparate readings this morning and is not intended as a slam against the person who wrote the anti-vax post, which was actually more about practicing good hygiene, with which I concur.)