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This Fox News headline yesterday caught my eye, “CDC: 114 Children Dead from H1H1; Vaccine Shortages Continue”, and this one from CNN, “CDC: H1N1 Spreading Even as Vaccine Supply Grows“. These are examples of sensational news headlines that needlessly spread panic about the H1N1 flu. And although these two headlines came out on the same day and were based on the same CDC press briefing, they almost seem to contradict each other. Which is it? Is there a vaccine shortage or not? According to the CDC, as of 10/28/09 there were over 23 million doses allocated, but only close to 17 million shipped, and as of yesterday there were 26.6 million available for shipping. These numbers do fall very short of the originally projected 40 million doses available by the end of October – but already 89 million doses have been distributed. And what about those 114 deaths? What the article fails to mention is that, according to the CDC press briefing, more than 2/3 of those children had underlying conditions.
I’m eagerly anticipating my copy of Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style by Randy Olson as soon as my local Borders gets the delivery. In his former life, Olson was a tenured faculty member in the Department of Zoology at the University of New Hampshire. Now he works in Hollywood making science movie magic including, Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy, showing at its New York city debut tomorrow, the closing night for the Imagine Science Film Festival. With chapter titles like, “Don’t Be Such a Poor Storyteller,” and “Don’t Be So Unlikeable,” it’s bound to charm the scientist in me! It has received positive reviews from the likes of noted science writer Carl Zimmer on his blog, as well as by talented science blogger PZ Myers on his blog, Pharyngula, but it sounds likely to be controversial. Olson apparently has a reputation for being a bit of a nag (PZ Myers said it, not me!) Check back in a week or so to see what I think of the book. That is, as long as Borders gets it soon. Here’s a video of Olson talking about the new book: