To Get a Flu Shot or Not (Some Reasons)

Michael Specter at The New Yorker rails on a colleague for faulty logic: “On Friday, a highly educated, very smart colleague at The New Yorker explained her decision to remain unvaccinated with these words: ‘I never get a flu shot, and I never get the flu.’ >O.K. Let’s play her game. Turn to whomever you are with and say these sentences out loud: ‘I never wear seat belts, and I never get killed in car crashes’; ‘I never use condoms, and I never become infected with sexually transmitted diseases’; ‘I eat red meat seven times a week, only exercise once a year, and I’ve never had a heart attack or a stroke.’

John Treanor, chief of the infectious diseases division at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is quoted in Discovery News speculating (probably rightly!) on human behavior: “You pitch the influenza vaccine as a way to maintain health, that the healthy thing to do is get vaccinated, but if you really wanted people to get it then you should tell them it would make them better looking or have more sexual appeal … Only some people see health as a motivator … It’s not obvious how to get young people to get vaccinated.”

A lot to unpack in this Science Daily report on a Tulane University study that found that people were more likely to get flu shots when they were priced lower because it indicated broader risk. The other part of it is that people only care about their own health, not the larger reason for vaccinations, which is to protect everyone: “Consumers believed they were more likely to get the flu when the vaccine was $25 compared to $125, but only when personal health was emphasized. Consumers saw low prices as indicating a higher need for the vaccine, which caused them to feel they were at greater risk. However, when directed to think about how the flu shot benefited society, consumers did not think about price as an indicator of their own risk.”

For some people, not getting a shot can lead to more than the flu, reports the AP: “Most doctors and nurses do get flu shots. But in the past two months, at least 15 nurses and other hospital staffers in four states have been fired for refusing, and several others have resigned, according to affected workers, hospital authorities and published reports.”

And then also, from the NYT, this: “So far this season, 20 children with confirmed flu tests have died, but that is presumably lower than the actual number of deaths because not all children are tested and not all such deaths are reported.”