Before You Say No to the Flu Shot

November 29, 2018

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 caught the flu immediately after getting the shot, and especially if you do not like shots to begin with. To add insult to injury, false rumors about what the flu vaccine can cause (it has been demonstrated that there is no evidence linking the flu vaccine to autism¹) circulate freely.

Your concerns are valid. Talk to doctors, do some research, and consider your health as well as those around you. Infants 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 symptoms².

So, before you say no, consider these questions:

  1. Would you risk a flu-induced death or coma?³
  2. Would you risk losing up to two weeks of your work, school, and social life?
  3. 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 the vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu by up to 60%, or that the vaccine immunity wanes 20% every month⁸? 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. Catching the flu can lead to serious or even fatal consequences. The flu shot can lessen a case of the flu if they 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 vaccine⁹. The vaccine is also intended to protect against influenza, a virus with symptoms that include body aches, fatigue, and high fevers¹⁰. There is no vaccine against the stomach “flu.” In fact, the so called stomach “flu” is not a flu at all and is caused by a different type of virus.

Examples of valid concerns are needle phobia or vaccine allergy. An alternative is the intradermal flu shot which is smaller than the regular needle and 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. Precautions should be taken, although allergic reactions to the egg protein rarely happen with most flu vaccines in the US today. Consulting a trusted doctor would be the best course of action. If you have any concerns regarding a potential allergic reaction, have a history of GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome), or are currently sick with a fever¹¹, consult your physician prior to getting a flu shot.

¹ Science Daily. (2018, October 15). Survey shows widespread skepticism of flu shot [Press release].
² Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
³ Sable-Smith, B. (2018, October 14). Last Year, The Flu Put Him In A Coma. This Year He's Getting The Shot. NPR.
⁴ FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
⁵ Science Daily. (2018, October 15). Survey shows widespread skepticism of flu shot [Press release].
⁶ Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
⁷ Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
⁸ Brody, J. E. (2018, November 5). Need a Flu Shot? Get It Now. New York Times.
⁹ FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
¹⁰ FFF Enterprises, Inc. (n.d.). Dispel the Myths Surrounding the Flu Vaccine [Brochure]. Author.
¹¹ Getting the Flu Vaccine. (n.d.). Retrieved from Emmi Solutions. Division of Wolters Kluwer Health.

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