The disinformation campaign around COVID-19 has done exactly what anti-vax forces hoped; it has spilled over into a growing resistance to vaccines in general. Right now the U.S. is seeing a decline in flu vaccinations. It’s also being hit with a variant of the flu that expresses the H3N2 proteins — a variety that has not been seen in so long that few Americans have any resistance. However, the current vaccine is well-matched the the strains of flu that are circulating, meaning that it provides good protection both against infection and against severe effects.
As The Washington Post reports, there’s a direct link between the anti-vax propaganda spread concerning the COVID-19 vaccines, and lower uptake of flu vaccines. Officials have even anticipated this, similar resistance has been displayed in both schools and the military against vaccines that have previously been routine.
The disinformation campaign has tried to make it seem as if, in protecting ourselves from COVID-19, we somehow lowered our resistance to flu. This is 100% not true. In fact, the opposite is true. It was ending the steps being taken against COVID-19 that has created conditions for a bad flu season.
Officials had been bracing for a more robust flu season this fall and winter because so many people have dropped covid protection measures and are reluctant to get vaccinated.
When people try to dismiss COVID-19 as a “mild” disease, with symptoms no worse than the flu, they’re forgetting how bad the flu actually is. Not only does it lead to many serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths each year, the flu, like COVID-19, has “long” effects that may not always be identified with the disease.
What many people don’t realize is that even after someone recovers from the flu, the inflammatory response generated by the virus continues to wreak havoc for another four to six weeks in those who are middle-aged and older, increasing the rate of heart attacks and strokes, Schaffner said.
For two years, the level of flu in the United States has been exceptionally low. There’s a reason for that: Flu has a basic reproductive rate (R0) below 2. That’s less than even the initially circulating form of COVID-19, much less the supercharged variants we have now, which have R0 values around 10.
What this means is that the basic steps taken to protect against COVID-19—wearing a mask in public, frequent hand washing, and avoiding large groups—remains highly effective against flu. Anything that works to slow the spread of COVID-19 is going to work against flu even better.
However, people are out there actively trying to get people to skip vaccinations. They’ve even continuing to spread propaganda against mask-wearing. And now they are more than free to do so on Twitter.
You’d like to think that if people were on Twitter encouraging their fellow citizens to fire weapons randomly into crowds (hey, you probably won’t hit anyone, and you need to test that weapon to make sure it still fires!) that Twitter would take steps to stop it. Though … maybe not these days.
The steps that can be taken to prevent the worst flu season in decades are all clear enough:
- Keep your flu shots and COVID-19 boosters up to date
- Wear a mask when inside stores or other public places.
- Wear a mask when riding on buses, trains, or planes.
- Avoid large groups, especially indoors.
- Order carryout when possible and avoid eating inside crowded restaurants.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after being in public spaces.
It’s doesn’t take a militaristic lockdown to slow the spread of COVID and all but eliminate the flu. It just takes acting with concern for your own family and for others.
It certainly doesn’t help when, from Fox News to Twitter, right wing media sources are pushing anti-science and anti-common sense disinformation that will absolutely lead to more misery and more deaths.
Election season overtime is finally winding down, so Democratic operative Joe Sudbay joins David Nir on The Downballot as a guest-host this week to recap some of the last results that have just trickled in. At the top of the list is the race for Arizona attorney general, where Democrat Kris Mayes has a 510-vote lead with all ballots counted (a mandatory recount is unlikely to change the outcome). Also on the agenda is Arizona's successful Proposition 308, which will allow students to receive financial aid regardless of immigration status.
Over in California, Democrats just took control of the boards of supervisors in two huge counties, Riverside and Orange—in the case of the latter, for the first time since 1976. Joe and David also discuss which Democratic candidates who fell just short this year they'd like to see try again in 2024, and what the GOP's very skinny House majority means for Kevin McCarthy's prospects as speaker.
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