Saying dumb things isn’t one of them.
As the council considered a proposal Wednesday to accept $3.1 million in federal funding for childhood immunizations, Councilman Jack Christie voiced his opposition to the measure, apparently conflating it with flu vaccinations.
“I’m going to vote against this,” Christie said before the 15-1 vote. “You don’t die from the flu.”
Christie backed down somewhat from his comment on Friday. What he meant to say, he said, was that “People should not die from the flu.”
“First of all, that’s $3 million that the federal government doesn’t really have,” Christie said of the funding proposal. “It’s borrowed money we eventually have to pay back. But more important is the media’s embellishment of the extreme fear of encouraging flu vaccinations.
“Every year there’s going to be a flu,” he said, “and vaccines create synthetic immunity, which does not trump natural immunity to disease.”
Christie, who said he has never taken a flu shot, suggested the medical community should focus more attention on prescription drug abuse that claims thousands of lives annually in the U.S.
Dr. Joshua Septimus, associate professor of internal medicine at Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, called Christie’s comments irresponsible.
“That is totally wrong,” he said. “The flu kills anywhere from a few thousand to tens of thousands in the U.S. alone. There is very good evidence that the flu shot reduces deaths from the flu. That flu vaccine is a very low risk and with very high potential benefits.”
So much here to deal with. First, the idea that not accepting this funding is fiscally responsible is ludicrous. This money has already been appropriated. Not accepting it doesn’t mean it magically gets transmuted from a liability to an asset on the federal budget balance sheet. It means it gets to be granted to some other city. There are sometimes good reasons to turn down federal funding, but this is money for childhood immunizations. Spending money to keep kids healthy is about the best spending we can do. It’s an investment with a big payoff, both in terms of spending less later on sick kids, and the greater lifetime earnings potential of kids who grew up healthy and in some cases who got to grow up at all.
Second, the bit about the medical community needing to focus more on prescription drug abuse is a complete non sequitur. Last I checked, the medical community was big enough to handle more than one thing at a time. It’s also unlikely to change its priorities based on one screwball City Council voting down a grant for childhood immunizations. If you want to send a message to the American Medical Association, writing a letter to them is probably the better approach.
Finally, and not to put too fine a point on it, but even Helena Brown voted to accept these funds. Let me say that again: Even Helena Brown voted to accept these funds. When you’re off on an island that even Helena Brown isn’t inhabiting, you need to check your coordinates, know what I mean?