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Commentary

Flu shot priorities
Gilbert L. Ross, M.D., Washington Times, 11-9-05

Gilbert Ross argues that if we want to protect Americans who are most at risk from flu infections—the elderly—we should vaccinate the children who are most likely to transmit the disease.
Flu still kills more than 30,000 Americans every year, mainly among the elderly and sick. Pneumonia takes another 30,000 plus. We should try something new, and evidence exists to support the new plan’s efficacy in saving lives: Vaccinate schoolchildren and toddlers against these diseases in addition to the older target group.
The idea of vaccinating one population to rescue another will strike some as counterintuitive—and may even seem unethical, in an era when groundless scare stories have made many people paranoid about vaccinations. Yet vaccinating the young against flu and pneumonia may be the best way to save the lives of the elderly who might come into contact with them.

Ross’ suggestion is an interesting one, and should be taken seriously if it can help to short-circuit the spread of flu infections to vulnerable populations.



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