Flu vaccine opinions rage like fevers

People are passionate about their flu shots. Maybe not to quite the same level as opinions about abortion, but passionate, nonetheless.

Some people get them every year, religiously. That’s the camp into which I fall. Others are just as adamant that flu shots cause flu, and don’t recommend the practice AT ALL.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook that I had just gotten my annual flu shot, and I invited others’ opinions on the matter. I got 36 comments within 24 hours, including some vehement back and forth debate from both sides of the issue.

I thought my cousin, Dan King, explained very well how the flu shot works:

The specific virus in every year’s shot is a different target and it’s all based on (very well) educated guesses. But this means that you are fully immunized against specific strains of flu, hopefully the most predominant. So yes, you can get the flu even after getting a vaccine because the vaccine may not target the strain you get. BUT, this doesn’t make it useless, and it greatly improves your odds of not getting the flu, AS WELL AS all the people with whom you come in contact. This is especially important for people with compromised, supressed, or otherwise weakened immune systems.

Another friend of mine, a nurse, backed up what Dan said. She added this:

I didn’t used to get the flu shot either and I didn’t get the flu. I do now and I still don’t get the flu. But I do have a responsibility as member of humankind to reduce the risk to others by taking care of myself. I am also a nurse and I have seen people die with the flu. A shot and the localized irritation I felt are a small price to pay!

There are some cons to getting the flu vaccine. This Woman’s Day article lists some of them (as well as an equal number of reasons TO get it).

The Centers for Disease Control lists these groups who should NOT get the flu vaccine without first consulting a physician:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)
  • People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine. Tell your doctor if you ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Your doctor will help you decide whether the vaccine is recommended for you.

One tidbit I found interesting on that article is this:

It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.

So if you wait too late into the flu season, when more people are passing the germs around, you still CAN get the flu, even if you’ve gotten the vaccine, if you are exposed before the vaccine has a chance to develop its protective antibodies in your body.

As for me, I’ve been getting flu shots for almost 20 years now. There was just one year, when the vaccine was especially scarce and didn’t become available at my doctor’s office, that I didn’t. And that year was the last time I got the flu.

What has your experience been with the flu vaccine?


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