"Help prevent panic before it happens: get a Flingol"
"There's a panic epidemic right around the corner and we need to prevent it. Scientists and public safety officials are recommending that everyone be supplied with a Flingol, lest the panic ruin the economy and cripple our health services."
And how would it do that, exactly?
"Well, do you have any chronic medical conditions?"
I have asthma.
"Then you're in a high-risk group. You're a high priority to get a Flingol."
Okay, assuming the panic epidemic is any worse than the normal crazy that goes around at Christmastime, how would a Flingol prevent it?
"You've probably heard rumours that some ingredients in the Flingol can cause spontaneous amputation and percussive cardiac asphyxiation... "
What?!? No, I've never heard that!
"Be assured that laboratory tests have demonstrated that the components used in the Flingol are very safe, and such incidents are extremely rare."
But you still haven't told me how the Flingol prevents a panic epidemic.
"The Flingol provides you with a mild electric shock at random intervals, which makes you less susceptible to real panic when it occurs."
And has this been tested to actually prevent panic?
"The Flingol is like the annual Flangel treatment that has been distributed for years. The Flingol has been prepared quickly to cater to the specific form of panic that is predicted to become an epidemic this year. Don't be worried about the very long lineups of people at Flingol clinics. Yes, some people are being turned away after waiting in line for hours, but we fully expect that a Flingol will be available to everyone who wants it by winter Solstice."
Okay, first, you still haven't given me any signs of evidence that this Flingol thing has been tested and is effective at preventing panic. In fact, if it will take hours out of my day, I'm definitely going to want to have sound evidence-based reasons for getting a Flingol. Second, aren't you encouraging the thing you're trying to prevent by having these long lineups and turning them away? Doesnt' that just create panic?
"We're constantly adjusting our system to maximize the communication to the public about availability of Flingol. Our suppliers, who are major manufacturers of pain-causing medication, are working as hard as they can to get the Flingol ready for every person in the Country."
Wait, so this Flingol thing is lining the pockets of the harmaceutical industry? At this point I'm very frustrated and I've heard no reason to get a Flingol. I don't usually suffer from the annual mass holiday panic, so I doubt it will be useful to me.
"Even if you don't get panic very often, you could pass it on to someone else who is unable to get a Flingol for health reasons."
In that case you're risking my health, according to these anecdote-based rumours you told me about. Even if it's a very low risk, I really want to know about the effectiveness. What scientific studies have been carried out to demonstrate its effectiveness? What is the empirical measure of the Flingol's ability to prevent panic from spreading? The only science-based information on all the public safety websites is that the Flingol is not unsafe, and that certain people should get it sooner than others.
"If you have any concerns about the Flingol, please contact your Family Safety Officer."
At this point, my primary concern is that you're telling people to get this Flingol thing...
"We're not telling you to get it, we're saying it's available, and that you're in a high-risk group. It's your decision whether or not to get the Flingol."
Right, sure. Because you don't want to get sued. But how can I inform my decision when the only information you're distributing is how it's supposed to work in theory, where to get it, and that it's not unsafe?
"Out of office reply: Thank you for your message. We will respond to your request within 2 working days."
Shit, you're as bad as the homeopaths.
It's been three full business days since I sent my initial message to the public health department asking about the effectiveness of the H1N1 influenza vaccine and got the Out-of-office reply. Based on the media hype, I'm thinking of getting the H1N1 flu shot, but none of the information on the Ontario Ministry of Public Health website and the Ottawa Public Health H1N1 vaccine FAQ page seems to have any evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing transmission/infection of the H1N1 flu virus. At most, it talks about the makeup of the vaccine, and the differences between it and the seasonal flu vaccine, but this vaccine had an accelerated production.
Presumably our politicians (informed by public health officials) made the decision to issue the vaccine based on hard scientific evidence, not just media hype and lobbying from Big Pharma. I would therefore like to see some of that evidence (or even evidence of that evidence) before getting the vaccine. This could take the form of something as simple as "in laboratory trials, the H1N1 influenza vaccine prevented transmission of the H1N1 influenza virus in XX% of laboratory rats, and reduced the average number of days of infection by X days." I'm frankly shocked that no such statements are in the public health documentation on the websites. This information should not be so difficult to find, and is far more powerful argument for getting the flu shot than "it's not harmful, so why not?"
Given the size of the lineups, I've got plenty of time to wait to hear back from Public Health before deciding to get a flu shot.