Editorial: An imperfect jab – but worth taking

Share
Related Topics

The influenza virus is a protean beast, its multiple strains mutating at lightning speed and giving each succeeding winter a different pathogenic complexion. To keep up, scientists spend the summer studying illness patterns in the southern hemisphere as a guide to what is to come – and developing that year's flu vaccine accordingly.

The approach appeared to be working fine. Indeed, until now, the official line was that vaccination is highly effective and, if only enough people could be persuaded to have the jab, the annual scourge would be less virulent.

Cracks are appearing in the conventional wisdom, however, with warnings from a number of top scientists that flu vaccines are not the guarantee against infection they are purported to be. More troublingly, official unwillingness to acknowledge the jab's shortcomings comes with dangerous implications of its own.

The most immediate problem is one of trust. The furore over MMR is an object lesson in public sensitivity over vaccinations. Government support for the combined vaccine was ultimately proved valid; but suggestions of a link with autism led to a 10-year panic, thousands of unprotected children, and a spike in infection. Overselling the efficacy of the flu jab risks a similar loss of public confidence. Of equal concern, it also takes the pressure off drug companies to invest in developing a newer, better vaccine.

The dilemma is a tricky one. Public health is not an arena that lends itself to nuance, and suggestions that the jab is not 100 per cent effective might result in fewer people choosing to subject themselves to it. But the risks of overstating the benefits are too great to be dismissed.

It is time, then, for a subtler message from the Government. The vaccine is still worth having; but it will neither guarantee the avoidance of illness, nor is it good enough to stop research into finding a better one. Flu is a sophisticated virus; it requires a sophisticated response.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

August catch-up: dress to impress, words to use more often, and the end of the internet

John Rentoul
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis