Health and Safety

Vaccination Myths Compromise Herd Immunity

Vaccination Distrust and Herd Immunity CompromiseI blame Jenny McCarthy for carrying the erroneous torch and Oprah for giving her a pulpit. Jenny McCarthy decided her son's autism was caused by vaccinations, buying into a paper by Andrew Wakefield that was based on manipulated data and fraudulent research. She then preached this junk science on any show that would have her, including Oprah, whose influence is well documented here.

Since this 2008 celebrity pseudo science smorgasbord, I've met a few people who didn't believe in vaccinations or were convinced vaccinations cause autism. I'm not referring to folks who don't believe in the flu shot, as there are plenty of them, but vaccinations for smallpox, polio, measles and the like. I just had a debate with a staunch believer in the mythical dangers of vaccines that was akin to banging my head against a brick wall incessantly.

Hey Mike, why the passion? The motivation is two-fold.

It's unfair to the children. Parents who don't get their kids vaccinated are needlessly putting their kids in harm's way. Those kids can't make the decision for themselves and it's grossly unfair to them. I feel for the little stinkers.

Herd immunity is compromised. Herd immunity is the foundation upon which I base my yearly flu shot plea. It's a form of immunity that occurs when the vaccination of a significant portion of a population provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not developed immunity. In other words, parents who do not get their children vaccinated put the entire neighbourhood's children at risk, not just their own.

Penn and Teller do a better job explaining why the anti-vaccination movement is bunk.

Parents: stop compromising herd immunity. Thanks.

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Join Me and Donate Blood - Blood Alert! Blood Alert!

toronto blood driveI got an email from Beth yesterday. Beth works for the Canadian Blood Services and they're in a little trouble. Luckily, I think we can help.

Here's Beth's email...

Hi Mike

Is it possible to mention that we need Torontonians to get out and donate blood in the next week? Nationally, our inventory is quite down and we're heading into a long weekend. In Toronto, only about 2% of eligible people donate unfortunately, so we have to import 50,000 units from other regions each year to support our hospitals.

Canadian Blood Services

Here's what I'm thinking... Let's pledge to do this next week. There's a list of clinics right here and many of them don't require an appointment. Or, you can call 1 888 2 DONATE (1 888 236 6283) with any questions or to book an appointment.

If you're willing to do this with me (yes, I'll do it too) please leave a comment letting us know. Over the next six weeks, they need more than 6,000 additional donors to book appointments to meet the needs of hospital patients all across Canada. Let's help chip away at that number.

Who's with me?

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Why Don't More People Donate Organs and Tissue Upon Death?

trilliumFour years ago I used this forum to publicly consent to donate my organs and tissue upon my death.

I just read an article that says Canada lags behind when it comes to organ donation.

Canada’s rate of organ and tissue donation has flatlined for the past decade. The national rate (from deceased people) is 14 donors per million, which is less than half that of the best performing countries such as Spain and the U.S., which has a rate of 32 per million.

I don't get it. Why wouldn't someone want to donate their organs and tissue upon their death? When you die, your organs aren't going to do you any good, but they could give someone else life. Doesn't that make an awful lot of sense?

If you haven't consented to donate your organs, I'm curious why. Please share in the comments.

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H1N1 / Swine Flu Didn't Kill Us, and That's Good and Bad

MedicalI started listening to my swine flu playlist well over a year ago. At that time, the WHO was already ready to pounce on this sucker by labelling it a "pandemic". Nobody wants to hear the word "flu" and "pandemic" in the same sentence.

Getting my H1N1 vaccination was a no-brainer. My whole family got one, it was a simple risk/reward analysis. As it turned out, the swine flu epidemic never materialized. In fact, the swine flu killed fewer people than the annual seasonal flu varieties, about 12,000. This is good news.

But... this is also bad. The next time there's a potential pandemic, how many people will ignore warnings from governments and public health officials? You know the types who don't believe in flu shots and think they know better than medical doctors... they'll say "yeah, sure there's a bird flu coming... just like the swine flu, right?"

I'm just worried about the next time governments and public health officials ring the alarm. Fewer people will be listening, unfortunately...

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Don't Let Your Oozing Open Gash Fester For 5 Days

medicalA mere 8 days ago, I openly complained about my various aches and pains. You weren't supposed to read that entry, but you can read this one. This entry is about what an idiot I am.

My back healed up nicely enough that I was able to play 3rd base for my comp team Wednesday night. I don't remember playing a better defensive 3rd base in my life, but this is about my slide into 3rd as a base runner. I did what I do a couple of times each summer and stripped the skin pretty good. That was 5 nights ago.

The wound refused to settle down and stop oozing. I cleaned it, applied polysporin and tried wrapping it up, but this afternoon it was still leaking profusely. I decided to show the nearby pharmacist and do whatever I had to do to heal this thing.

She took one look at it and told me I had to see a doctor and get antibiotics. Luckily there was a clinic next door.

The clinic doc said it was totally infected and ordered me to emergency for an IV. A prescription wasn't going to cut it. Like I said, I'm an idiot.

So now I've got a date every 24 hours with an IV. Its pretty bad, apparently. It turns out you're not supposed to let an oozing open gash fester for five days. Who knew?

Here's the wound just before they cleaned it up. See ya again tomorrow, St. Joe's!


And the first person who asks whether I was out or safe on the slide into third gets permanently banned from this site.

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Do Not Read: Old Man Bitching and Moaning Inside

medicalThis entry isn't for you. This one is for me. You can dive into the archives if you're looking for something to read.

I woke up this morning feeling fine. At about 9:30, I took a stroll down the hall to the washroom. About half way to my destination, I decided to reach down and pick up a shirt that was hanging on the railing. That's when my back spasmed and in an instant it didn't just hurt to stand up, it hurt to breathe.

I've never been overcome with such back pain so suddenly doing nothing. I played ball Wednesday night and Thursday night, but this was Sunday morning and I was fine until the spasm. I managed to hold my breath and get myself on my back, where I lay motionless wondering how I was going to get through the day. I downed two percocets left over from last year's separated shoulder and tried to understand what the hell just happened.

I eventually found the strength to lie in a hot bath, and the percs kicked in so that I could actually get outside and enjoy the BBQ I was hosting, but the back muscle I pulled is still aching. If you think this is old man bitching and moaning, you ain't seen nothing yet.

About four weeks ago, playing hockey, a player fell awkwardly on my left arm. Initially, I thought it was broken, and was very relieved when I realized it wasn't. Although functional, my left arm has been in severe pain ever since. It's pretty useless, actually, and every night I awaken at least once with pain in this arm from sleeping on it. I'm still hoping it will eventually go back to normal.

I mentioned my separated left shoulder from last year. I got that injury playing hockey, and I wake up every morning with pain in my left shoulder because of it. I've now come to grips with the fact I'll probably have pain in my shoulder every morning for the rest of my life. I'm just glad I can play hockey, baseball and volleyball again.

In 2007, I wanted to run a marathon. I still remember the 19km run during which my body broke down. Despite countless hours of physio therapy, including ART therapy and frequent visits to a renowned sports doctor, as well as x-rays, MRIs and a complete bone scan, I haven't been able to run more than 3km without unbearable pain since. My right leg even starts getting tender with pain following back-to-back baseball games or really long walks. I no longer want to run a marathon, but I would absolutely love to run a 5km race again.

For a long time following my torn ACL and broken leg injury incurred during a slo-pitch game in 2003, my left leg would buckle. I actually took six months off of all strenuous physical activity because it was so unstable. That was one of the worst six months of my life.

As a younger man, I remember the long road back from a serious leg fracture when I was in grade two, and a less serious injury to the opposite leg when I was in grade nine. All of these injuries over my 3.5 decades of life, along with my terrible bio-mechanics and an inability to play sports without thinking it's game seven of the Stanley Cup finals have created the perfect storm for what plagues me daily. I hurt all over.

If you're reading this entry, you're not very good at following instructions. You weren't supposed to read this one. This one is for me, an old man bitching and moaning.

Maybe it's the percocets talking, or maybe it's the back pain merging with the arm and shoulder pain, but I'm 35 years old and have the body of a 65 year old. I'm Wendel Clark without the complete awesomeness. I hurt in so many places so often, my entire existence is now managing the pain and maintaining my body so I can keep playing. Because I need to compete.

After-all, It's game seven of the Stanley Cup finals.

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Get Your Goddamn Flu Shot, Fred

H1N1A little over a week ago, I suggested your personal decision to not get the H1N1 vaccination was selfish.

That's right. I think those who reject science and prefer to buy into silly conspiracy theories and urban legends and reject the free H1N1 flu shot are selfish. They're selfish because getting immunized means a person does not spread the illness to others. That's one less carrier walking around, shaking hands, touching public door knobs and TTC poles and spreading the virus.

With 54 comments, that entry seemed to strike a nerve with people, especially my pal Freddie P from Canadian Thinker. He wrote an entry about my stance in which he said he was "amazed" by what I had wrote. Freddie didn't hold back and let me have it.

It's a personal decision and certainly not something that should be criticized or lead to insults from people who are willing to buy into every flavour of the month.

If you want to throw the word selfish around, how about those bastards who showed up even though they knew they weren't eligible. And I wonder how many healthy people have actually contracted something while standing in one of those pathetic lineups.

If you're that worried about the virus put your house in lock-down or wear a flippin' mask when you leave the house.

There are 47 more comments over there. Hector wrote, "Well said Fred! I couldn't believe Mike's stance on this issue." Argie wrote, "I totally agree Freddie. Mike, I'm afraid, has a case of Torontoitis. This sickness is diagnosed as any person who follows, like a blind sheep, whatever the Toronto media preaches." And James Edgar wrote, "I usually side with Mike but this time he's off base."

I value Fred's opinion, as I do Hector's, Argie's and James Edgar's, but I stand by what I wrote. The more people who get the H1N1 flu shot, the less dead bodies there will be.

As I read the dead tree version of today's Globe, I couldn't help but notice a full-page letter to Canadians from Dr. David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Dr. Butler-Jones outlines the government's plan to protect Canadians against the H1N1 flu virus.


There was one line that spoke to my point about how not getting the vaccine is selfish. "The more Canadians who get vaccinated, the better we all are protected against the H1N1 flu virus".


Without actually printing the word "selfish", Dr. David Butler-Jones, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, has my back. It's a simple numbers game. The less people carrying the virus, the less people contracting the virus, the less deaths there will be.

Get your goddamn flu shot, Fred.

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Leafs and Raptors Pregnant

BabyCongratulations are in order for the members of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors. They're all expecting!

I assume they're pregnant, because I know they're over the age of five, and they've all received their H1N1 vaccinations while the shots are reserved for high-priority groups. It's miraculous to consider one man becoming pregnant. Over 30 men becoming pregnant is something else entirely.

I want to be vaccinated as well, but as a healthy non-pregnant adult I'm not in the high-priority group so I have to patiently wait my turn. Ontario health minister Deb Matthews says we'll run out of the H1N1 vaccine before school-age children like my very own can be vaccinated.

But at least pregnant folks, like members of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Raptors, can jump the line before the province’s supply dwindles. Good on them.


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H1N1 Flu Shot Myths Infuriate Me (or Why Your Ignorance Makes Me Feel Superior To You)

H1N1If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I come out yearly and encourage you all to get your flu shots. Here's the 2003 plea and here's my 2004 plea. I get the flu shot every year, as does my entire family, including my two young children.

This year, with the H1N1 influenza virus creating the need for an H1N1 vaccination, there's been more chatter than usual. Everybody, it seems, has an opinion on the H1N1 vaccine. Old myths reserved for the regular ol' flu shot have been resurrected and are flying around the office at full steam. One lady is convinced the H1N1 vaccine will give her "the swine flu", another thinks it's a pharmaceutical industry conspiracy and another has found a quote from a retired quack American doctor who advises against the shot. Of all the great and respected doctors on this continent, that quack doctor got her to send an email to all of her contacts urging us to say no to the H1N1 vaccine.

I am not a doctor. It's highly likely that you're not a doctor either. When it comes to decisions for me and my family regarding vaccinations, I speak to medical doctors I trust. Every single one I've spoken to or heard from say, without hesitation, that we should all get immunized as soon as possible. The scientific evidence is overwhelming. As a responsible parent, I'll ensure my kids receive the H1N1 vaccine as soon as possible. As a responsible member of society, I'll ensure I get the H1N1 vaccine as soon as possible.

That's right. I think those who reject science and prefer to buy into silly conspiracy theories and urban legends and reject the free H1N1 flu shot are selfish. They're selfish because getting immunized means a person does not spread the illness to others. That's one less carrier walking around, shaking hands, touching public door knobs and TTC poles and spreading the virus.

I'm going to close with what I wrote back in 2003.

If you could avoid getting the flu, wouldn't you? Getting a flu vaccination makes good sense, right? You'd be surprised at the conspiracy theories I heard when talking with coworkers. Some think it's a cash-grab for the pharmaceutical industry. Others think it will leave them defenseless when the "super flu" arrives. Some even think the contents of the vaccination aren't to be trusted and that it could cause the flu or even worse. Someone even claimed their friend told her it contained radiator coolant. I've heard it all.

If you believe in such conspiracies, then you believe that every single medical doctor in the country is in on the deal. I challenge you to find one doctor who will tell you the flu vaccination is a bad idea. You won't because it isn't.

Get a damn flu shot. This isn't The X Files.

Other relevant links:

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H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinics in Toronto: Where and When

H1N1 Vaccination Clinics in TorontoThe City of Toronto has revealed 10 locations where residents will be able to get H1N1 influenza vaccinations. They are:

Metro Hall - Rotunda 55 John Street
East York Civic Centre - Lower Level 850 Coxwell Avenue
North York Civic Centre - Members Lounge 5100 Yonge Street
North Toronto Memorial Community Centre 200 Eglinton Avenue West
Etobicoke Civic Centre - Committee rooms 1, 2, 3 399 The West Mall
Melody Public School - Gym (closed school) 24 Strathburn Blvd. (closed school)
Masaryk-Cowan Community Recreation Centre 220 Cowan Avenue
Scarborough Civic Centre - Rotunda 150 Borough Drive
North Kipling Community Centre 2 Rowntree Road
Timothy Eaton Business and Technical Institute - Cafeteria (closed school) 1251 Bridletowne Circle (closed school)

These locations open to the general public on November 2 for six weeks. The vaccination hours for the first two weeks are:

Week 1 Hours of operation
Monday, November 2 -
Friday, November 6
1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 7 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Week 2  
Tuesday, November 10 -
Friday, November 13
1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 14 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

If you're over six months old, you should get this H1N1 vaccine, or so says every doctor I've heard from, including the two I trust and have spoken to directly. For the latest information on H1N1 and the city of Toronto, visit

Here's a handy Google Map look at where the 10 vaccination clinics in Toronto can be found.

View Toronto flu clinics in a larger map

[Map via Map of the Week]

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