Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | October 27, 2009

More on H1N1 Flu; In Which I Call Dr. Anonymous onto the Carpet for Being a Wimp

The venerable Dr. Anonymous, although no longer technically incognito (like a certain dinosaur), has been busy of late. He’s transformed himself from a full-fledged blogger into more of a media mogul, schlepping his trusty video camera hither and yon. He podcasts on Thursdays, and makes sure that Vegas is no longer confined to Vegas. He even has a regular gig on his local TV news. In the face of all this, he rarely writes true blog posts anymore. Leave it to me, then, to jump down his throat on one of the rare occasions when he actually does so.

His latest exposition is on the topic of H1N1 influenza. Bookended by a pair of very nice video clips, Dr. A sallies forth over well-explored territory, promulgating validated information about both the disease and the vaccine. After all that, though, here’s where he falls down:

When it comes to immunization, it’s definitely a personal decision.

Cut me a break! That’s like going on and on about the risks of driving while drunk, and then saying, “It’s definitely a personal decision.” This is actually true. In fact, one drunk driver presents less of a numerical risk to the rest of the population than does one unimmunized individual during pandemic flu, especially if said individual works in health care. The DUI dude can only kill, at most, one or two carfuls of people, whereas the unvaccinated RN can wreak havoc throughout an entire institution.

Dr. A goes on to say this:

The only thing I ask is to just ask yourself this question – What is the risk to yourself (and your kids) if you DO get the H1N1 vaccine (mild side effects, in my opinion) verses the risk if you DO NOT get the H1N1 immunization?

Here’s where I call WIMP*. Dr. A, you’ve just done an excellent job of explaining that the risks of vaccination are downright trivial, compared to the documented substantial risk of pandemic H1N1 influenza, especially to children. Why wuss out now and call on the patient to make the final determination of the balance of risk vs. benefit? You’ve just laid it all out for them. You need to take a stand and say that vaccination is the responsible course of action.

Patients are looking for our recommendations. When the issue is this clear cut — and make no mistake, despite the pseudoscientific fear mongerers lurking around every corner, this is indeed one of the most straightforward decisions our patients are called upon to make — we do them a disservice by wimping out and calling it a “personal decision”.

Edited to add:

Every patient has the right to make “personal decisions” about whether or not to follow the doctors’ recommendations. It is still our responsibility to come out and make those recommendations.

Man up, Dude.

(*Note to COG: that’s not an acronym.)

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