I know better than to think highly of the intellectual prowess of the Average American, but I simply cannot wrap my head around the widespread skepticism and occasional outbursts against vaccination. To hear people, even some who appear to have a mediocre or better grip on reality, parrot the arguments of Truman-era water fluoridation conspiracy theorists is legitimately disturbing. If only America's unvaccinated mouthbreathers were smart enough to realize that as they walk around slobbering H1N1 in public places they are creating demand for vaccines in exactly the people we don't want to get them.
We expect Glenn Beck to be characteristically Glenn Beck-like (which is to say picking-corn-out-of-shit insane) when gravely warning his viewers that getting a flu shot is dependent upon "how much you trust your government." But Bill Maher is sharing similar nuggets of wisdom with his entirely different audience:
Gee Bill, people who write "u" and "ur" are in a marginal position to comment on the intelligence of others. Ignoring his efforts to cornhole the English language we see a viewpoint that is legitimately moronic but so common that it no longer merits raised eyebrows. Whether barely sentient celebrities are on daytime TV rallying barely sentient housewives against autism-causing vaccines or late night hosts are dishing out Common Sense Wisdom about how vaccines are a government plot to poison you, this hysteria is perilously close to becoming mainstream.
I will not get a flu shot because ideally I shouldn't get a flu shot. I am a healthy 30 year old. Vaccines against epidemics like the flu should go to high risk populations (healthcare workers, kids, and the elderly). But fewer people getting vaccinated means more people in the low risk population are being exposed to infected individuals. Thus more people who shouldn't necessarily be vaccinated seek it out. Thus we increase the probability of seeing newer, more dangerous viruses for which Glenn Beck's viewers won't get vaccinated.
More likely, however, unvaccinated people won’t get sick because so many of their coworkers and neighbors will get vaccinated – i.e., a classic example of Free Riding. They consume more than their fair share of a good (health) without contributing anything to its production. When Mary J. Moron starts boasting about how she didn't get the poison vaccine for her kids and they didn't get sick, gently remind her that you assumed whatever risk and costs exist so that your kids wouldn't be exposing hers to the virus. When she responds with a pastiche of cherry picked and probably made up "facts" about the monstrous Communist plot to sap and impurify our precious bodily fluids, remember that she will outbreed you. Weep for the future of the planet.
Sure, vaccines carry risk. You know what else is risky? Not getting vaccinated. Americans aren't real good at thinkin' or math but it amazes me that they can't figure out which is riskier: taking a flu vaccine and accepting the 1% odds of getting sick or taking one's chances standing in line at the Post Office in front of a tubercular hillbilly hacking the contents of his esophagus in your general direction.