What good is a vaccine if Americans won't roll up their sleeves?
Dr. Seema Yasmin is a medical doctor, epidemiologist, director of the Stanford Health Communication Initiative and author of Viral BS: Medical Myths and Why We Fall for Them . The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
(CNN) A doctor in Texas once told me that a woman walked into a pediatrician's office in the fall of 2014 and said: "Give my daughter the Ebola vaccine." The biggest Ebola epidemic in history was spreading across West Africa and a man infected with the virus had recently traveled to Dallas.
"There is no vaccine for Ebola," the pediatrician said (the first US Food and Drug Administration-approved Ebola vaccine was announced in December 2019). "But it is flu season and I can give your daughter the flu vaccine." The mother scoffed and said, "Flu vaccine? I don't believe in those things!" before storming out of the doctor's office.
Humans struggle to weigh risk. The flu kills as many as 60,000 Americans a year. But it was fears of an Ebola epidemic in 2014 that forced some schools and businesses to shut, despite the fact that a total of two people died from the virus in the US.
This time around, the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has infected 4.5 million people in the US, killed more than 150,000 Americans, and turned our world into disarray. Amid the anxiety and uncertainty, we're forced to make crucial decisions about our health. Should we wear face masks ...
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