Delta, Flu, and Vaccines

4 11 2011

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), an organization that promotes vaccine skepticism, is under fire for a controversial ad they placed on Delta Airlines flights. Unfortunately, the organization removed the ad from YouTube and I can only comment on what I read at Skepchick. The ad tells people (who are sitting on a plane, unable to escape or change the channel) that the flu doesn’t really exist, and that if people wash their hands and exercise they’ll be healthy.  And that they don’t need to get vaccinated against the flu. What outraged the Skepchick, and prompted her to start a petition to get Delta to stop spreading lies was that these ads agains flu vaccines are being run on planes, where the conditions (cramped and crowded, recycled air, etc) make it especially easy to catch something.

What’s especially scary to me about this ad is that it’s being run on airplanes. Airplanes are like infectious disease pods traveling 35,000 feet up in the sky. Everyone crammed in together, touching each other, touching hand rails, touching your arm rest, touching their boogers because they forget that the window seat isn’t an invisibility shield, half-assed washing their hands because the water pressure is terrible and the soap dispensers are all broken. (Seriously… I don’t give a shit about crashing into the ground or bomb-strapped terrorists. I’m worried about MRSA.)

Ultimately, the Skepchick says, NVIC’s ultimate goal is to get people to visit their website, doubt their physician’s advice, start questioning vaccination and eventually stop vaccinating altogether, which will in turn increase the possibility of outbreaks.

The problem with antivaccination, if you ask me, is this: It is unethical. If a mother chooses not to vaccinate her child (a person who may not be able to make that decision for himself), she is only harming her child. And she’s also lowering herd immunity, endangering the whole community, particularly the elderly, pregnant women and immunosupressed individuals.

Antivaccination is unethical because it harms innocent bystanders, not necessarily the person who makes the choice not to vaccinate her children. Delta is being unethical for agreeing to broadcast patently false information to travelers.

The flu does exist, and it kills people. And vaccinating against it does make a difference.




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