Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When Scientists Goof Big

As awesomely powerful as modern science is, when they goof, they goof big.

No one is perfect, but last year the ouchie I got didn’t do squat. I’m talking about the annual flu shot. Living in Canada, we’re lucky to have access to many medical wonders, absolutely free. We do have the best health care system in the world.

I get my flu shot every year – have been for many years now. It is important to not only prevent my nose from running, my eyes from watering and my body to ache, but I’m also doing good for society.

By getting our flu shots, we help keep the nasty flu bug at bay, instead of causing a national – or even international – plague. Scientists for years have been talking about the next big plague which will wipe out much of the human population, kill economies (as no one can go to work, or go out and buy products and services) and essentially ruin society as we know it.

Last year, despite getting my annual shot in the arm, I still got the flu. At the time, I thought it was a fluke.

But now I learn, that scientists goofed – big time.

Every year, scientists from around the world, work with the World Health Organization, to monitor the spread of flu bugs globally. They use their scientific powers of reason to predict which strains of the flu are spreading faster and further than any of the others. And every year, they use this information, to create the flu shot, used here in Canada, and everywhere else on the planet.

As this year’s flu shots clinics are gearing up – I got my shot a couple of weeks ago – we are now learning the horrible truth about the goof. Last year, these scientific minds got the wrong strains of flu virus in the flu shot. They actually admitted to it being a totally ineffective vaccine!

It’s the first time ever, that they have admitted this, which they had to do because of how the flu shot is created every year. Every year, the previous version of the flu shot is used as the basis for the new one.

This year, the scientists say, they have tossed out last years version, and redone it completely from scratch.

We all make mistakes, that’s part of being human. But as the spread of colds and flu becomes more common, thanks to the ease of international travel and a constantly more global economy, mistakes about vaccines could be the cause of the next global pandemic.

Scientists say every century, living populations go through a pandemic – it’s mother nature’s way of controlling the population of living things. The largest pandemic was one which wiped out most of Europe and part of the Americas in the 17th century.

Medical minds are working hard to try to prevent or at best, predict the next pandemic. Pandemics are tragic things, leading to tragic results. But what could be most tragic of all, would be a pandemic spread by the very people trying to prevent one from happening.

We’re very fortune last year’s flu shot didn’t do anything. It should have immunized people against the flu. But worst case scenario, it could have actually given people the dreaded virus it was invented to stop.

Let’s hope the scientists got it all right this year.

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