Sonny Bunch has a good piece in the Washington Times about the controversy over Bill Maher spreading misinformation regarding the flu vaccine. Maher told former Majority Leader Bill Frist that “I would never get a swine flu vaccine or any vaccine,” and refused to accept Dr. Frist’s assurances that the vaccine was safe and effective. Maher was demonstrably wrong on some of his assertions. As the New York Times’s Tara-Parker Pope pointed out: “Mr. Maher questioned letting someone stick ‘a disease into your arm,’ wrongly implying that the flu shot contains a live virus. The flu shot is a killed vaccine.”
Maher’s false statements add to unsupported fears about flu vaccines, which constitute an important part of our nation’s pandemic preparedness plans. In the period after 9/11, Ari Fleischer got a lot of flak for saying, also regarding Maher, that “There are reminders to all Americans that they need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” I understand why Fleischer’s statement, coming from the White House podium as it did, caused such a negative reaction. But perhaps Ari was just premature — Bill Maher really does need to watch what he says about the flu, as it’s extremely irresponsible.