In security circles we often discuss why some individuals and businesses find themselves in a perpetual state of high risk. While there can be complex factors, the bottom line is that many of us make poor risk management decisions in our business and personal lives.
Sometimes a high risk position results because we don’t correctly asses asset values, threats or vulnerabilities. Sometimes the cost of implementing a safeguard exceeds and expected loss, and the decision to accept risk is a logical one. And sometimes we simply make mistakes.
But there are other reasons that we Canadians are often too polite to point out: Laziness, denial, rationalization and risk decisions based upon emotion rather than logic. The H1N1 ‘flu gives us plenty of examples.
We’re in the midst of an influenza pandemic. Fortunately we know how to create ‘flu vaccines — we do it every year to combat the seasonal flu. So we have a vaccine, and every credible organization from the World Health Organization down to our local medical officers are recommending that we vaccinate ourselves and our families.
The risk is clear: pH1N1 is a nasty virus that, at best, will make you sick for a week or two. At worst, it could kill you. The threat is real and much of resulting risk can be mitigated by a simple vaccination. The Public Health Agency of Canada advises that, “without interventions like a vaccine and antivirals, close to 25 to 35 percent of the population could become ill over the period of a few months.” Other health organizations have released similar estimates. The vaccine has been tested in Canada as well as other countries, and we know that approximately 1 in 100,000 people will have a serious reaction to it, as with any other vaccine. (Source: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/alert-alerte/h1n1/vacc/options-eng.php)
From a risk management perspective it doesn’t get much simpler than this. The benefits of the vaccine clearly outweigh the risks, and the cost (a few hours of our time at most) is minimal compared to the potential loss. And that doesn’t take ethics and social responsibility into account. Those who choose not to be vaccinated not only may become ill, but could also pass H1N1 on to more vulnerable family, friends and colleagues — including those who can’t be vaccinated due to alergies.
As a result, we continue to see people announce on the Internet that they’re not getting vaccinated. Some quote “facts” that are uninformed myths at best. Some focus on the 1 in 100,000 serious reaction rate and completely loose perspective. Others ignore a century or so of medical science and proclaim that they don’t need a vaccination because they are “healthy and take their herbs and vitamins.”
Chances are that you’ve already seen the writings of otherwise intelligent parents who are incapable or making good risk management decisions. Their blog posts usually start with how much they love their kids. Then they latch on to the one quack that chargers people $50 each to attend a seminar to learn “the truth” and rationalize that “the medical community don’t all agree”. They focus on the danger of mercury in vaccines, even though the exposure is less than you’d get from eating a can of tuna. Or they repeat silly claims like suggesting that the vaccine is “untested”.
Some of these people obviously have other agendas. It’s clear from their writing that they’re simply anti-vaccination shills. They write clever “balanced” articles pitting fact against laughable fiction and seek to “support” others who share their defective logic.
Some see themselves as rebells, not “giving in” to the experts who tell them they should be vaccinated. The old phrase, “Rebells without a clue” comes to mind.
In others, the barrage of H1N1 information creates neurotic behaviour and they operate on a completely emotional level. They “agonize” (often at length and in writing) about how “difficult” the decision was. They loose all perspective, and should you dare point out the flaws in their reasoning their feelings are hurt. How dare you suggest that they don’t know what’s best. They behave as if the act of conceiving a child instantly made them more knowledgeable on vaccines than the WHO, CDC, and the medical experts of countless countries, including their own. They have “the right” not to vaccinate themselves and their children, and as emotional people often do, they confuse having a right with it being the right thing to do.