Flu season is in full swing and the familiar sounds of people sneezing, coughing, and sniffling can be heard almost everywhere you go. According to Flu.gov, approximately 5-20% of U.S. residents get the flu each year. Luckily for residents, there is a flu vaccine that “protects” them from getting the illness.
I can’t speak for everyone, but I was never an proponent of the flu vaccine. When I was younger I received the vaccine because I had to; but as I grew older things changed.
When I turned 12, I went to the doctors for a normal check-up and was convinced by the doctor to get a flu shot. Even though I was skeptical about it, I wound up getting it. When I woke up the next morning I couldn’t move; I had a fever, chills, and body aches. I wasn’t sure whether or not it was the vaccine or just a coincidence. Either way, since I have had that experience I have never been vaccinated again with the flu shot.
During the past few years I have seen more and more places offering flu shots. I have heard more about the flu in the news. I have heard stories of people dieing from the flu. This has made me wonder, should I really be getting this vaccine every year? Is it really that important?
I have spoken to many different people about my predicament and have yet to receive a good reason on why I should be vaccinated. Having gone back and forth for years now, I have finally had enough. During this past week I turned to the professionals and listened to what they had to say about the vaccine.
Importance of the Vaccine
Dr. Rajesh Patel, a Pulmonologist at Eastern Suffolk Pulmonology in Riverhead, NY, had this to say about the vaccine.
The flu shot is very important to prevent getting a full blown “flu” in the first place. It can be very devastating, especially in the elderly, very young, and people who have heart, lung disease, and diabetes. Why? Most vulnerable folks will be so sick as to require hospitalization. And they can get bad pneumonia from it, and some even die.
So by getting the shot which contains a tame or broken down particles of the real flu virus, the person stimulates his own immune system to make antibodies (sorta like bullets against the flu virus itself ). Some people can feel as if they actually got the flu because of the side effects (aches and pains, sniffles, feeling lousy, low grade fever, etc). But this is nothing compared to the real flu, where someone can be really sick. Therefore, it’s better to get the shot, and prepare your immune system with the shot, for when the real live flu virus attacks your body.
Dr. Raymond L. Kepner, Jr., an Associate Professor of Biology at Marist College, also expressed his views about the influenza vaccine.
“It’s important to get the flu shot to minimize the possibility of contracting the flu and spreading it to others,” Kepner said. “In my opinion the benefits far outweigh the risks. To my knowledge there are no major risks associated with receiving the flu vaccine that have been unequivocally documented.”
Another advocate of the vaccine is Registered Nurse Connie Eisner. Eisner is an Employee Health Coordinator at Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie.
The flu can lead to pneumonia and exacerbate other existing conditions, such as Emphysema and Diabetes. Each year, unfortunately, thousands of people in the U.S. die from the flu each year Eisner said. While the vaccine is not 100% effective, it goes a long way in protecting people from illness and complications. The flu vaccine helps to prevent the spreading of the flu from one person to another. Most vulnerable are the young children, elderly 65 or older, pregnant women and those with heart, lung or kidney disease.
Advice for People who are Unsure about getting the Vaccine
Dr.Patel, and R.N. Eisner gave their advice for people like me who are unsure about whether or not to get the vaccine.
“I would encourage everyone to receive the vaccine. It is safe: it is not a “live” virus so one cannot get the flu after receiving the vaccine,” Kepner said. “Anyone who lives in a close community–such as a college campus–would be vulnerable to contracting the flu from contact with others who are ill with the flu.”
“It depends on what risk factors you have. If you are likely to get exposed to the virus (being in a dorm or campus where everybody gets the flu, diabetic or with any lung or heart problems), then better get it before its too late,” Patel said. “It’s better to prevent it to begin with, rather than suffer badly.”
Skeptics of the Vaccine
Dr. Michael Smith with Carolinas Natural Health Center answers this important question for your health.
Dr. Amy Myers, the Founder and Medical Director of Austin UltraHealth, a functional medicine practice in Austin, Texas, wrote an article about the lack of effectiveness of the vaccine.
According to a study in 2008, the influenza vaccine was only 59% successful and benefited only 36% of the healthy children over the age of 2 who received it. Another study from 2008 indicated that the number of children’s doctor visits or hospitalizations did not differ between vaccinated and non-vaccinated children measured over two consecutive flu seasons, suggesting that the influenza vaccine had very little effect on children’s overall health status. Additional studies show that flu vaccines do not prevent influenza transmission to the patients of healthcare workers (Myers).
Another skeptic of the flu vaccine is Dr. Joseph Mercola. Mercola is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine at the “Dr. Mercola Natural Health Center” in Schaumburg, Illinois. In one of his articles, Mercola talks about how the vaccine is “unnecessary and ineffective.”
Not only do flu shots weaken your immune system, expose you to toxins, and cause allergies and other adverse reactions, they don’t work. Besides being fraught with complications, flu vaccines simply don’t work to decrease flu incidence or flu mortality. Flu vaccinations keep coming up short in study after study—way short—when it comes to having any measurable impact on what matters most, which is reducing illness and mortality from the flu. After the largest flu-vaccination campaign in Canadian history, a Canadian-led study concluded that vaccinating nursing home workers had no effect on confirmed influenza cases among the homes’ elderly residents. In fact, in April of 2010, Michael Osterholm, director of the national Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), publicly admitted that flu shots don’t work in the elderly.
Finally, there is Dr. Randall Neustaedter. Neustaedter is a specialist in child health care and has practiced homeopathy and Oriental medicine for over 30 years. Neustaedter is known as one of the biggest skeptics of the vaccine and doesn’t think it works.
“Everyone knows about the flu and the flu vaccine. What people do not know is that flu vaccines are nearly useless in preventing flu, they will cause the flu, and they often result in nervous system damage that can take years for the body to repair,” Neustaedter said. “Other nations chuckle at Americans’ infatuation with the flu vaccine.”
Neustaedter went on to say that, “Flu vaccine manufacturers are notoriously inaccurate at predicting the appropriate viruses to use in an individual year’s vaccine, rendering the vaccine ineffective. Those most at risk of flu complications probably share a higher risk of adverse reactions to the flu vaccine as well.”
Based on speaking to some health professionals and reading what other had to say about the flu vaccine, I have found the answer to my “question.”
I have decided that I still will not get a flu shot.
The doctors I spoke to that were “pro vaccine” talked about the elderly, people with other diseases, and young children; I am neither of the two.