Crashing and Burning on the Information Superhighway

I’m so sick of the swine flu, especially the debate surrounding the vaccine.

Twenty-four hour news media, social networking sites, weblogs and YouTube are all flooded with information, or in many cases, misinformation, about the vaccine. It reminds me so much of that broken telephone game we used to play in Brownies. It started with a fact and an opinion. The end result is a garbled mess of the two and it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone to listen to health professionals while they attempt to clear up the confusion. Why bother when Bill Mahar has already tweeted against it?

The problem is too much information. It’s everywhere and we don’t seem to know how to filter it. We put so much stock in the people who have found a voice in the media. We listen to entertainers, bloggers, and unqualified friends and neighbors who have no business passing off their opinions as gospel. We trust them based solely on the fact that they have an opinion and a medium to express it. Meanwhile, we tune out the real experts, the people who could put our fears and concerns in perspective. It’s driving me crazy to hear people around me making important decisions about their health based on information from weak sources. Not once have I heard someone say, “I’m not getting vaccinated because my DOCTOR told me not to.”

As for myself, I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to pharmaceuticals. I take them sparingly, as I believe that exercise, nutrition and sufficient rest are the keys to good health. I’m a huge supporter of preventive medicine and naturopathy. At the same time, I appreciate the benefits of modern technology. I’ve actually never had a seasonal flu shot because I rarely get the flu. H1N1 isn’t the seasonal flu. This is a fact that doesn’t seem to be getting across as clear as our nation’s health officials would like, and while I’m not qualified to advocate for or against the H1N1 vaccine, here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself as you decide whether or not to inoculate yourself and your family: When was the last time you thought about Polio? Do you ever worry about your children contracting smallpox? Do you know what Diphtheria is? What about Pertussis? Of course not. Thanks to vaccinations, here in Canada, they’ve been long forgotten as a threat to public health. For our grandparents though, they were real and scary, just as the H1N1 virus is for us right now.

So, go out and get the H1N1 shot. Or don’t. It’s your choice. Just make sure your decision is based on qualified information, not what you heard in the supermarket check out line, on Facebook or what Kanye thinks (has he weighed in on this yet)? In the meantime, eat your veggies, wash your hands and get plenty of rest.

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