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Should You Get a Flu Shot? We Weigh the Facts …

Should You Get a Flu Shot? We Weigh the Facts …

Flu season is here, which means doctors’ offices and drug stores around the nation are promoting flu shots. Some swear by the flu shot, flocking to get their annual shot without a second thought, while others resist being vaccinated, citing health concerns. With so many strong voices out there, it can be hard to decide what’s best.

So here’s a quick look at some flu shot facts to help you sort fact from fiction.

What is the flu shot?
The first flu shot was invented in 1938 by Jonas Salk, the same man who invented the polio vaccine. Like all vaccines, the flu shot uses a small amount of an inactive virus to spur the immune system to produce protective antibodies that prevent recipients from contracting that virus.

How does it work?
The immune system mistakes the dead virus for the real thing, prompting the body to produce protective antibodies that prevent recipients from succumbing to that virus if exposed to it in the future.

How effective is it?
Because the flu vaccine combats only certain strains of influenza — usually three, though that has recently increased to four — its efficacy varies from year to year, depending on what strains are most dominant in any given year. In addition, the vaccine’s effectiveness varies among individuals. That said, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that a season flu vaccine can reduce the risk of contracting the flu by between 70% and 90%.

Does it work immediately?
No. It takes about two weeks for the body to produce the necessary antibodies to fight off future encounters with the virus. The earlier in the season you get a flu shot, the better the chance that your body will have its defenses in place if an when you need them.

Can it make me sick?
No. The influenza virus present in a flu vaccine is not live, and is incapable of transmitting the flu. Some people do report feeling mildly fatigued for a day or two after receiving a flu vaccine.

I heard the flu shot contains mercury. That sounds dangerous. Is it true?
At one time, vaccines included a small amount of a type of mercury called thimerosal, which was used as a preservative to ensure freshness. Experts say that, unlike the more common methyl mercury, thimerosal is harmless. However, vaccine producers stopped using thimerosal a few years ago due to concerns among some parents that the compound may be responsible for causing autism in children. This belief has been discredited in recent independent studies, but vaccine manufacturers have opted to stick with less controversial preservatives.

I heard flu shot is dangerous for people with egg allergies. Is that true?
Some flu vaccines are produced inside of eggs and may contain trace amounts of egg protein. Allergists agree that the risk of becoming ill from such a small amount of egg protein is slim. For those who are still concerned, it is possible to find flu vaccines that were not made using eggs.

If the flu shot is safe, why can’t I get it when I’m sick?
Being sick will not increase the likelihood of becoming sick from the flu vaccine. Getting the flu shot when you’re sick can reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, though. When you’re sick, your immune system is already working hard to make you well. An already compromised immune system will not be able to produce sufficient antibodies in response to the inactive flu strains from the vaccine, so you may not be be fully protected if and when you encounter the real thing.

What about pregnant or nursing women? Is it safe for them?
Doctors say it is completely safe for pregnant women and nursing mothers to receive a flu shot.

What about babies?
The flu shot is considered safe for babies over six months of age, and doctors say that children up to the age of two are among those who are most in danger of dying from contracting influenza.

What if I’m afraid of needles?
A nasal spray version of the vaccine is now available for those who hate needles.

The flu is no big deal. Is it really worth the expense and trouble?
Each year, in the United States, about 500,000 people die from the flu, and millions of others become severely ill to the point of hospitalization. While most of these deaths are among very young children and the elderly, doctors insist that as many people as possible should be vaccinated. This reduces the overall cases of the flu, which protects the most vulnerable among us.

14 comments

1 Debbie N { 10.21.13 at 4:24 am }

Every time I get the flu shot i get sicker than a dog and regret it each time…but the last 3 years I’ve tried a trick that a very good friend told me about. His rheumatoglist told him whenever he’s around someone that has the flu or your kids come home with it…take a cap full of Pepto Bismo…his doctor told him it coats the lining of the intestine/bowels so that the virus does not stick or adhere to it….works like a charm my friends….try it – you will be presently surprised…….

2 Curt { 10.20.13 at 6:59 pm }

Very nicely said Mary. I agree with 100%. I have Chaga tea every day. It’s Free (For me) Its effective and 100% organic.

3 Ali { 10.18.13 at 10:54 pm }

Hear, hear, Mary!

4 Mary { 10.18.13 at 7:21 pm }

Vaccines are a money making scam. There is no money in a healthy population. There are no repeat customers in cures. The medical establishment is a pawn in the hands of the pharmaceutical industry via their lobbyists, the ex-industry employees who hold political industry regulatory offices, & the politicians who “retire” into lucrative positions in the very companies they were formerly responsible for “regulating”. The entire industry-government relationship is a network of conflict-of-interest, driven by money & corrupt to the core. It exploits the good intentions of ignorant people, from it’s customers to the doctors & nurses administering, to the politicians who don’t even read the bills they sign because their only reading their bank statements.

5 Ali { 10.17.13 at 12:15 pm }
6 mbl { 10.16.13 at 7:55 pm }

As Dr. K said, some vaccines are using live, attenuated viruses. And there are a remarkable number of people who develop flu-like symptoms (aka adverse events or AEs) after getting the vaccine, so saying you don’t get sick after getting the vaccine may not be entirely true. You can get sick from vaccines using live, attenuated viruses, and those folks who have body aches and sniffly noses after getting the vaccine would argue they feel sick.

And yes, viruses mutate, which is why they’re so successful and why the vaccine may not be as good at protecting one year as it is the next. Also, they viruses they pick to put in the vaccine may not be the ones that make the rounds for that flu season.

Personally, i don’t get flu vaccines. I did get the Hong Kong flu in 1968 and was one sick kid. I haven’t had it since (although i got pretty sick in the early 1990′s which may have been flu). I’ve talked to other Hong Kong flu survivors and most of us haven’t had the flu since then. I haven’t done scientific research and the number of people i’ve talked to probably aren’t a high enough n to say it’s statistically or clinically significant, but i do wonder if there’s a connection between those who had a pandemic flu (like the one in 1958 and the one i had in 1968) and have been relatively flu-free since.

7 Nancy Slauenwhite { 10.16.13 at 5:22 pm }

Until 1991 I never got a flu shot but since then I haven’t missed a year. Previously, I would get the flu a couple times a year and become severely ill. I ended up with pneumonia in 91 which prompted getting the shot. Since that date till the present the worse thing I got in any given year was a case of the sniffles. I swear by the flu shot and wish everyone would get it that can.

8 Dena Delaney { 10.16.13 at 4:30 pm }

The CDC tracking is closed with the government shut down… hmmm
The CDC documents clearly show they are still asking pregnant women who take the shot to contact them on a special number so they can be tracked. Looks like we are still being guinea pigs. The 300,000 deaths a year is a bit off…. like WAY off. I think this article should be pulled and rewritten personally.
But thank you for trying.

9 Mike { 10.16.13 at 3:37 pm }

I will not be taking the Flu vaccine this year or ever. I have tried the Flu vaccine four times since the first one was offered. Every year that I took the vaccine, I had numerous colds all winter. When I don’t take the vacine, I may have one or two minor sniffles for a few days. It does not work for me.

10 Ali { 10.16.13 at 12:24 pm }

I will NOT be getting the vax again this year. Flu vaccines do not work for me, they actually do more harm than good, and as dangerous as it is, I will not take the unnecessary risk to weaken my immune system. I’d rather be miserable with the flu and a couple days bed rest…as I truly believe this boosts my immune system naturally. I keep a healthy lifestyle (vitamin D3 is most beneficial and most people are deficient in it). I very rarely get sick with any flues.

FACTS:

-The vaccine lowers your immune system in order to get the biggest immune reaction from the shot. That creates a perfect opportunity for secondary infections like strep throat and pneumonia. The shot is worse for people with underlying illnesses.

-Most vaccines contain thimerosal, which is 49 percent mercury by weight; some vaccines contain as much as 25 mcg of mercury per dose, which is 250 times the EPA’s safety limit for mercury.

-Listed here are toxins injected into your body:

Aluminum — a neurotoxin that has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease

Triton X-100 — a detergent

Phenol (carbolic acid)

Ethylene glycol (antifreeze)

Betapropiolactone – a disinfectant

Nonoxynol – used to kill or stop growth of STDs

Octoxinol 9 – a vaginal spermicide

Sodium phosphate

-The mercury ingredient is called Thimerosol (or sodium ethylmercurithiosalicylate). It’s an organomercury compound used as an antiseptic and antifungal preservative in vaccines. It metabolizes to ethylmercury in the body, which is considered to be less toxic than methylmercury and inorganic mercury. This difference is what often prompts doctors and other health care practitioners to suggest Thimerosol is no big deal. However, ethylmercury is still able to cross the blood-brain barrier as well as the placental barrier in the unborn.

Vaccinations are less of a problem than the ancillary ingredients that come along with them. If drug companies would clean up the vaccines and get rid of the dozen or so detergents, preservatives, and mercury included within them, they would likely be far more safe.

So, if YOU want the flu vaccine, be my guest… but if it were me… I’d really investigate.

11 joseph micheal adams { 10.16.13 at 9:54 am }

Well,I get the flu-shoot every year and when I got mine I was allreadey kinda sick with a head cold&sinuse cold,so will this cause my bodey to not fight off the elements of the flu if iaround some-one who has the flu?please,reply back when you can.thanks:joe_adms@yahoo.com,or joeadms7@gmail.com.

12 Frank M. Krakowski MD { 10.14.13 at 5:04 pm }

Jamie
The middle of my response was apparently cut out as I hit submit. At the point that starts “Most critical for those 65…IT SHOULD REALLY SAY

Most critical for those 6 month ols and younger is the fact that everyone around them be vaccinated to protect them from being exposed to any flu viruses.
Finally there are the errors in your statistics. In an average year, just in the U.S., there are 60-80 million flu illnesses (maybe more because many go unreported), about 300,000 hospitalizations, and roughly 35,000 deaths. Some seasons there are more and other seasons less. Ninety percent of the deaths occur in folks 65 years of age and older but each year 50-250 pediatric deaths (<5 yrs old) also occur (but sometimes higher as it was in 2009-2010). Sadly, these numbers should never happen because almost ALL of this morbidity and mortality is PREVENTABLE if people get vaccinated in a timely fashion.
Last year the flu vaccine was judged to be about 62% effective overall but only about half that in the elderly…[and then it continues] PLEASE BE SO KIND AS TO REVISE MY INFORMATION ACCORDINGLY. Thank you.

13 Frank M. Krakowski MD { 10.14.13 at 4:48 pm }

OK Jamie. Let’s try again. Here are a few things in your article that need clarification.
First of all not all flu vaccines are shots. There is nasal spray as well. Not all vaccines are interchangeable and recommended equally for all persons in all age groups. People need to check which one is most suitable for them.
Most flu vaccines use inactive killed virus but the nasal mist is made using a live attenuated (weakened) virus and as such it is indicated only in healthy people age 18-64 and not in pregnant women, the elderly (>65) or people with asthma and respiratory issues.
Potentially there are two vaccines suitable for people with egg allergies. The one grown on cell cultures but still has a little bit of egg protein (how I’m not sure) so really the best one for egg allergic folks is the recombinant vaccine. However, all egg allergy people should take special precautions when getting flu shots–always with a doctor and special CPR equipment nearby and waiting for at least 30 mins after the shot to make certain no anaphylactic reaction occurs.
Flu shots (but never nasal spray) are not only OK/safe for pregnant women but they are highly recommended as a way to better protect the mother (pregnacy stresse her immune system); reduce miscarriages, low birth weights, and premature births; and protect the baby after birth (because babies less than 6 months old can’t be vaccinated and antibodies from the mother get to the baby before delivery and afterwards via breast feeding) and are the babies only self-defenses against flu. Most critical for those 65 years of age and pediatric (<5 yrs old) casualties run 50-250 per year (but sometimes higher).
Last year the flu vaccine was judged to be about 62% effective but only about half that in the elderly (because their immune systems don't respond as well, which is a reason the newest "high-dose" vaccine has 4X the amount of flu material in it to boost their response). There are many factors that increase or decrease vaccine effectiveness in a given year, including but not limited to how well the experts predict almost a full year in advance which flu virus strains are going to cause illnesses in any given year. While there are 3 main strains of flu viruses–A, B, and C–there are some 200 subunits. Flu vaccines typically include A- and B-strain material. Plus, flu viruses change their characteristics regularly and can do so right in the middle of flu season, sometimes dramatically and then the vaccines become less effective. There are about another dozen reasons as well.
With this year's new versions of the vaccine–especially the quadrivalent (4-strain version) and the "high-dose" variety for the elderly–experts are hoping that effectiveness will jump considerably…and it most likely will if the majority of people get vaccinated in a timely fashion, before cases start to become frequent and spread.
The key messages regarding flu are "Don't get it…don't spread it…get vaccinated." The CDC says "everyone 6 monthd of age and older, every year" because flu vaccine protection wears off and flu viruses change season to season.
For more flu information check out http://www.flucrusade.com.
I hope this information helps your readers.

14 Dr. Frank Krakowski { 10.14.13 at 8:59 am }

Jamie
Most of what you wrote is correct but not the stats on deaths. In an average flu year, in just the U.S., there are 60-80 million flu illnesses, about 300,000 hospitalizations, and about 35, 000 deaths from flu or its complications. Ninety percent of the deaths involve people 65 or older but each year there are 50-250 pediatric (<age 5) deaths as well, and infants under 6 months are vulnerable unless the people around them get protected.
The most important message from all of these stats is that almost all of this morbidity and mortality is PREVENTABLE by getting an annual flu shot…the CDC says: "everyone 6 months of age and older."
Several factors made last year's vaccine have an overall effectiveness rate of just 62% (and roughly only half that in the elderly). Normally, effectiveness is higher and this year, thanks to several new versions of the flu vaccine (and maybe better forecasting of viral strains causing flu this year) including the new 4-strain version and "high-dose" ones for the elderly, vaccine effectiveness this year should be much better than before.
The key tips with flu are "don't get it…don't spread it…get vaccinated ASAP."
This is a message from the KNIGHTS' CRUSADE AGAINST INFLUENZA (visit our website http://www.flucrusade.com )

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