Before You Say No to the Flu Shot

January 31, 2020

Before you say no to the flu shot, consider these questions:

  1. How much do you know about the vaccines?
  2. Can you separate facts from stories based on bias and rumors?

It is easy to resist widespread pressure to get vaccinated, even more so when you know a friend of a friend whose son seemingly caught the flu immediately after getting the shot, and especially if you do not like shots to begin with (your friend’s son was almost definitely exposed to the flu itself before getting the shot). To add insult to injury, false rumors exist about the damage that can be caused by the flu vaccine, creating unwarranted skepticism about its benefits. For example, it has been demonstrated that there is no scientific evidence linking the flu vaccine to autism despite persistent rumors linking the two.

Your concerns are valid. Talk to doctors, do some research, and consider your health as well as those around you. Infants younger than 6 months cannot get vaccinated, and the flu is transmittable the day before you experience the sudden onset of symptoms. The virus is also still transmittable for up to a week even after you have no more symptoms.

So, before you say no, consider these questions:

  1. Would you risk a flu-induced death or coma?
  2. Would you risk losing up to two weeks of your work, school, and social life?
  3. Would you risk contributing to the severity of infection?
  4. Would you risk passing on potentially life-threatening health consequences to someone you personally know who is more vulnerable than you are (such as an older adult, infant or someone with compromised health)?

Timing of getting the flu shot is very important. Don’t wait until someone you know is sick. Did you know that after you get the vaccine, it can take up to two weeks for the antibodies to build inside the body, or that the flu shot has various levels of effectiveness for different ages, or that last flu season (winter 2018-2019) the vaccine reduced the risk of getting the flu by up to 60%, or that the vaccine immunity wanes 20% every month? If you are concerned about how someone can catch the flu after the shot or in spite of it, those are your reasons. They may have been exposed before the shot became fully effective or after its effectiveness has waned.

There are certain people more susceptible to the flu virus: the elderly, pregnant women, and those with compromised immunity. This year, children appear to be especially hard hit by the strain of flu that is predominant, unlike the strain that dominated last year. At least 27 children have died since the beginning of this year’s flu season.   Catching the flu can lead to serious or even fatal consequences. In fact, as of January 2020, this flu season already has 1.7 million cases in the United States, 16,000 hospitalizations and 910 deaths. Each year, there is an attempt to anticipate what the dominant strain of flu will be and develop the flu vaccine to fight that. Frequently, since that prediction occurs many months in advance of actual flu season in order to allow for the development and production of the vaccine, the guess is not accurate. That occurred this year, but nonetheless getting the flu shot is worthwhile. The flu shot can lessen a case of the flu if you do happen to catch it. The vaccine does not, in fact, contain the active flu virus itself because the viral strains inside are dead, making it impossible for you to actually catch the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine is also intended to protect against influenza, a virus with symptoms that include body aches, fatigue, and high fevers. There is no vaccine against the stomach “flu.” In fact, the so called stomach “flu” is not a flu strain at all and is caused by a different type of virus.

Examples of valid concerns are needle phobia or vaccine allergy. Two alternatives are the intradermal flu shot, which uses a smaller needle than the regular flu shot, and is injected into the skin instead of the muscle, as well as the nasal spray vaccine. Another concern about the flu vaccine may arise for those allergic to eggs. Some vaccines have tiny amounts of egg protein in it. If you have this allergy, depending on the severity, this might be a cause for concern although there are options you should discuss with your doctor. Precautions should be taken, although allergic reactions to the egg protein rarely happen with most flu vaccines in the US today. If you have any concerns regarding a potential allergic reaction, have a history of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome), or are currently sick with a fever, consult your physician prior to getting a flu shot.

Wishing you and yours peace and good health in 2020.

Science Daily. (2018, October 15). Survey shows widespread skepticism of flu shot [Press release].
Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
Sable-Smith, B. (2018, October 14). Last Year, The Flu Put Him In A Coma. This Year He's Getting The Shot. NPR.
FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
Mole, B. (2019, December 10). Unusual type of flu virus is dominating early start to this year's flu season.
Science Daily. (2018, October 15). Survey shows widespread skepticism of flu shot [Press release].
Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
Mole, B. (2019, December 10). Unusual type of flu virus is dominating early start to this year's flu season. Arstechnica.
Ducharme, J. (2019, December 9). The 2019-2020 Flu Season Is Off to an Early Start. Time USA.
McNeil, Donald G. (2020, January 8). The Flu Season May Yet Turn Ugly, C.D.C. Warns. New York Times.
Ducharme, J. (2019, December 9). The 2019-2020 Flu Season Is Off to an Early Start. Time USA.
FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
Getting the Flu Vaccine. (n.d.). Retrieved from Emmi Solutions. Division of Wolters Kluwer Health

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