Since then, influenza has broken out each winter, and each winter it takes a mortality toll of appreciable significance.

Medical research devotes itself to developing means of coping with dangerous diseases. For those which are caused by infectious agents, notably bacteria and viruses, our best defence is almost always to take the bacterium or the virus, render it harmless without destroying it, and use it to stimulate immunity without causing disease.  We call these protective preparations vaccines.

...each year we save many people’s lives by vaccination.

Value in vaccination

Although harmless, vaccines can be a bit irritating to the tissues or to the body as a whole.  Most people have no reaction, but those who do rarely experience more than a slight local soreness or a slight fever and achiness. Anything more serious is extremely rare.  The disease against which we are protecting is far more dangerous and has a significant mortality.

Influenza, unlike virtually all the other diseases against which we have vaccines, gives us an added challenge — the virus mutates every year. Meaning, last year’s vaccine may be less effective against this year’s virus.  But each year we save many people’s lives by vaccination.

Disease mitigation

Vaccines have changed the history of the world. Many people today do not realize how significant that statement is — because vaccines have made terrifying diseases like diphtheria, poliomyelitis, and tetanus disappear. We are no longer terrified the way our grandparents were. As a result, some think that vaccines are no longer necessary — and some spread the dangerous fallacy that the vaccine is worse than the disease.

This dangerous fallacy has led to outbreaks of measles and whooping-cough. So far, we have not seen outbreaks of diphtheria, poliomyelitis, or tetanus — but they are swords of Damocles hanging over our heads.

Influenza is approaching but we can protect most people against it, and we can protect everyone against diphtheria, poliomyelitis, and tetanus. Opposition to these vaccines makes our whole society vulnerable. It is irresponsible, and just plain wrong.