Basically the article is more scaremongering by The Daily Mail, this time focusing on Swine Flu vaccinations instead of cancer, but it mostly comes down to the same thing: sensationalist journalism intended to do nothing but sell papers, regardless of the consequences.
In 1976 there was an outbreak of swine flu in America. One man died from it, and several others were hospitalised. The USA rushed out a vaccine to 40 million people. Of these 40 million there were 25 deaths from 500 detected cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
Here’s what The Daily Mail has to say on the matter:
- More people died from the vaccination than from swine flu.
- 500 cases of GBS were detected.
- The vaccine may have increased the risk of contracting GBS by eight times.
Let’s think about that for a second. Only one man died from swine flu but 25 died from the vaccination. Surely that suggests that the vaccination actually worked pretty well at preventing the virus from spreading. The side-effects seem pretty bad, admittedly, but I believe they are less likely to kill you than the swine flu the vaccination helps to prevent, especially 30 years on.
The risk of contracting GBS is now somewhere around 0.7 cases per million flu vaccinations.
More than 700 people had died from swine flu without widespread vaccinations when the BBC published the linked article. That figure is based on 125000 reported cases. The number of deaths is now somewhere over 2100 out of 200000 cases. The actual number of cases is higher than the confirmed number because of unreported mild cases, but we can also assume that was the case with GBS back in 1976.
If you have the flu vaccine then you’ve got roughly a 1 in 1.4 million chance of contracting GBS. If you’re one of the fifty incredibly unlucky people in the entire population of the UK that would get it then you can still relax because there’s still only a 1 in 20 chance that you’ll actually die of GBS, and that’s based on data from 1976. You’re probably more likely to be treated for it now, especially since people know to look out for it when flu vaccinations are being given.
If you don’t have the vaccination and you do get swine flu then you’ve got (very roughly) a 1 in 1250 chance of dying from it.
I think I’d rather take my chances on the vaccination.