The Flu Vaccine: Is It Worth It? Shannon Robb

Flu season is upon us, and it is upon us hard. Experts are predicting this to be the worst flu season in recent memory, with already higher than normal numbers of flu sufferers before the peak of flu season has even hit.

The flu has taken hold of the Eastern and Southern states (particularly in cities), with the peak right now located in Boston. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency last Wednesday, with up to 700 reported cases of the flu already (10 times the number reported last year). Massachusetts General has been overflowing with patients complaining of flu-like symptoms. The last time flu season was this bad, this early, was in 2009 when the Swine Flu (H1N1) epidemic hit.

With all this news about the flu, many are running out to get flu shots (it’s still not too late to get one), supplies and hunkering down with purell. But, is the flu shot really worth it? If you live in a large city, or Boston, maybe it is. Everyone has their own feelings and beliefs about getting a flu shot. I myself have never had one, but I did come down with Swine Flu. It was the sickest I have ever been in my entire life (I literally could not get out of bed for four days, and felt absolutely gross for another three weeks). Hey, guess where I lived when I got Swine Flu….yup, Boston! I don’t remember ever having the flu before, so I didn’t worry about getting a flu shot even though I lived in Boston and had to take public transportation to school every day, not to mention hang out with law students who never liked missing classes even if they felt feverish. Was it a mistake not getting one? Probably. But, I haven’t gotten one since, either.

Health Care workers and doctors are urging folks to get the flu shot to help stop the spread of the flu. The flu can be preventable, and it’s true that people do die from it. But, the flu shot also has its detractors (my chiropractor is a strong advocate against the shot, and has distributed a lot of information to her patients to educate them on both sides of the vaccination). There are some weird, unnecessary ingredients added to the flu vaccine that could potentially cause harm. Also, the flu vaccine only contains only a few strains of the flu, so you could still get the flu even if you’ve been vaccinated. In fact, scientists have recently discovered that the flu strain causing all the ruckus so far, Influenza B, is not included in this year’s vaccine. I have also witnessed a few bad reactions to the vaccine itself amongst my friends, which don’t seem to fun either (and as of today, three of my vaccinated facebook friends have come down with the flu).

Getting a flu shot is about your own individual health. If you feel the need to get one, more power to you! Many clinics and even drug stores are offering the flu vaccine for free, or at discount prices. If you are around the elderly, young, pregnant or people with other health conditions, you should consider getting vaccinated if you haven’t already to help stop the spread to those around you. If you get the flu a lot, consider it a wise choice. But, if you’re a relatively healthy person and you don’t feel at risk to get the flu, or you never really have gotten the flu before, take a moment and really think about getting vaccinated before you run out and get one.

Really we should all be taking extra steps to avoid illness, whether we’ve had the vaccine or not. Taking extra Vitamin D supplements, washing our hands more frequently, covering sneezes and coughs, getting enough sleep, these are all things that may help ward off cold or flu. And, pretty much common sense.

Bottom line: do some research and find out what’s best for you!

Image via Shutterstock

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  1. Actually the CDC has recently stated that the three strains in the vaccine (two strains of A and one of B) have been responsible for about 90% of cases. The other 10% is from another B strain not in the vaccine. But since the vaccine can only inoculate against 3 strains, that’s considered a good vaccine. The CDC has also published that the vaccine this year is about 65% effective at stopping people from getting the flu, while most that were vaccinated and get the flu anyway show lessened symptoms. Getting a flu shot is your choice, but it is important to note that this year the shot has been no less effective than previous years’.

  2. I got the flu shot in September and I still got the flu. It was a horrible.

  3. Flu shots are a scam. Just another way the drug companies cash in on our paranoia.
    I have never had one in my life. And I don’t get any more sick than someone who has had one. In fact, there was a Canadian study which showed that they are pointless and give you other flu strains that you may or may not have had, which will make you GET the flu. (I’d post a link, but they don’t like that on here! )

    • That’s not true, Deborah. The study (I’ve read the whole thing) showed that getting the vaccine made it so that 56% of people did not get the flu (as compared to 22% in the control group, ie: people who didn’t get the shot). That’s not perfect, but you have to take into account the fact that there are about a million types of flu and we are typically vaccinated for 3-4 of them. Nothing when it comes to viruses has a one hundred percent success rate. There are too many of them and they change too quickly.
      Vaccines also don’t give you the flu. That’s like saying a rabies shot gives you rabies. It does take about two weeks to build an immunity and you can still get sick in that time. If you were incubating the flu prior to your shot, it won’t cure you. And of course, you can still get another strain entirely.
      If you choose not to get a shot, that’s okay. I get one every year because I work in situations with lots of people, and sometimes I get sick and sometimes I don’t. But saying they’re a scam to make money is misinformed–it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to develop these vaccines every year and they retail for $20, so it’s more of a “breaking even” type situation–and I think you should talk to your doctor about it.

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