In recent weeks, pundits with little knowledge of public health have been warning the public to stay away from the H1N1 flu vaccine. Fox News host Glenn Beck recently said that the vaccine may be “deadly,” adding, “You don’t know if this is gonna cause neurological damage like it did in the 1970s.” Hate radio host Rush Limbaugh claimed that H1N1 warnings are “a bunch of typical government panic and hype” and even HBO’s Bill Maher stated that you’d be an “idiot” to get the vaccine.
Last night in an interview that aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius responded to these skeptics, saying the public should listen to “doctors and scientists,” not pundits:
SEBELIUS: Well, I tend to like to get my health advice from doctors and scientists. And that’s what we would urge people to do. I think it’s advisable to ask questions, to figure out — as a parent or a pregnant woman, or somebody with an underlying health condition, what the facts are, but probably not get your facts from — with all due deference — TV commentators. Maybe talk to somebody with a little scientific background and a medical degree about what actually is your risk and your opportunity to be safe and secure.
In fact, 60 Minutes spoke to the deans of the top 10 U.S. schools of public health, and found that “[a]ll of them endorsed the vaccine.” Bruce Gellin, director of the national vaccine program, said that after three weeks, “he has received fewer than 200 reports, mostly about muscle aches, stomach aches and sore arms.” Out of 10 million doses, he hasn’t yet found “any serious side effects related to the vaccine.” While, as Sebelius pointed out, it’s important to ask questions and raise concerns about vaccines, the World Health Organization has said that flu vaccines are “among the safest” that exist, and it hopes that “everyone who has a chance to get vaccinated does get vaccinated.”