Scientists are hard at work developing a vaccine that will treat the most fearsome menace to global civilization since the atom bomb.
The swine flu shot could be used by millions of people worldwide to combat the dreaded disease, which has killed more than 700 people so far. But as we all know from watching popular science fiction films, the dangers of having a mystery potion injected into your body cannot be overestimated.
Could this trial shot turn a person into a human-pig hybrid, or a monster or a werewolf of some sort? Pretty unlikely, as such brews are generally cooked up in underground bunkers by villainous scientists in the employ of secret paranormal organizations with aims to take over the world.
But even assuming this trial shot does not cause an "allergic reaction" that gives you superpowers or unwanted facial hair, is there a good reason to volunteer for this test? Sure! If it works, you might be protected against the swine flu when it comes back to visit like an unwanted relative this fall. If it doesn't work, you're no worse off than all the folks who didn't submit to the trial.
"We expect this vaccine to be no different than seasonal (flu) vaccine. It ought to be extremely safe," said Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University.
But the studies won't be large enough to catch any very rare side effect. The last mass vaccination against a different swine flu, in the U.S. in 1976, was marred by reports of paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome. Scientists could never prove whether that link was real or coincidence, but all flu vaccine today comes with a warning about Guillain-Barre — and the government has pledged intense monitoring for rare reactions if mass swine flu vaccinations go forward.
So if you've got a hankering to be stuck with a needle and contribute to Scientific Research, have at it! The chances are very very nearly nonexistent that you will be paralyzed or turned into a pig.