The Flu Shot: Myths & Facts
As the seasons change, you may ask yourself: to shot or not to shot? You may be wondering whether or not to get the flu shot, I mean. There are many myths and uncertainties regarding the flu shot, so it is no wonder you might be feeling a little hesitancy towards it. The confusion over the facts and fallacies of the influenza (or flu) shot is an especially hot topic because of our current worldwide pandemic. In order to help you become more informed about the benefits, myths, side effects, and accessibility of the flu shot, I will answer common questions by compiling evidence, facts, and some links to other helpful resources.
Dangers of the Flu Shot
The CDC has posted its own data about the effectiveness, or rather the ineffectiveness, of the flu vaccine. During the best years, the flu vaccine was only about 59% effective. But, in some years it is only 13% effective, as seen in the 2014-2015 statistics. Side effects include Guillain Barre syndrome, facial paralysis, fever, headache, and death.
Will the flu shot help me avoid the current pandemic?
No, it will not. The current flu shot will not contain any strains of influenza that are related to the virus causing worldwide pandemic. Remember from my previous article, that the flu vaccine for this year was made last year before any of us were worried about the current virus. The 2020-2021 flu vaccine contains several flu strains that were problematic during last year’s flu season. None of the strains included in the current vaccine are related to the pandemic virus.
What else is being injected?
Besides dead viruses, when you get a flu shot you are getting several other things injected into your body. Adjuvants is a fancy word for ingredients. Some of the ingredients in the flu shot are aluminum, formaldehyde, and thimerosal (mercury). Additionally, the vaccines are grown in egg protein, so if you are allergic to eggs, you risk a strong reaction.
What is the flu shot?
According to Michael T Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, and the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance, the flu vaccine is overpromoted and overhyped. It does not protect as promoted. "It’s all a sales job.”
The definition of the vaccine per the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for the influenza (flu) shot is: a vaccine that is injected by needle into the arm of the patient. Its purpose is to defend against the flu viruses that have been identified through research as the most common during the flu season. Each year, there are multiple vaccine types and manufacturers available. The CDC recommends getting an age-approved, licensed flu vaccine each year. There are currently two main combinations of flu vaccines available to the public: trivalent and quadrivalent flu vaccines.
The trivalent flu vaccine is constructed with the use of an adjuvant: an additional ingredient that helps create a stronger immune response. This vaccine is approved for individuals 65 years and older.
Quadrivalent vaccines are produced using the virus grown in eggs. This form is considered the standard flu shot. Within this category, different compositions are preferred for different age groups. Some of these include a cell-based influenza shot, recombinant shots, and high-dose influenza vaccines. It is crucial to adhere to age recommendations when deciding to receive the flu shot.
Who needs a flu vaccine?
In theory, no one “needs” a flu shot. Humans have been evolving alongside viruses since the dawn of time. Before the invention of the flu vaccine, each season a flu virus came and went with varying levels of symptoms and mortality.
Once again, the CDC and vaccine marketers recommend that all individuals 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine once a year (during the flu season). Different vaccines are approved for each age group, including ones deemed "safe" for those as young as 6 months. Age-appropriate vaccines are the most crucial.
For instance, the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV) is approved for people aged 18 years and older, and the adjuvanted and high-dose inactivated vaccines are approved for people aged 65 years and older. The CDC also identifies both pregnant women, and people with egg allergies as groups able to receive a flu shot.
Nonetheless, it is recommended that certain groups talk to a healthcare provider before getting a flu shot. Specifically, if you have an allergy to any of the ingredients present in the vaccine, if you have ever had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, or if you are not currently feeling well at the time of the shot.
Why wouldn’t you get the flu vaccine?
Though the flu vaccine is available and supposedly functional for most individuals and age groups, there are some people that should NOT get the flu vaccine, according to the CDC and other various healthcare experts. For instance, children under 6 months of age are too young to get a flu shot.
Also, people with severe or life-threatening allergies to any of the ingredients present in the flu shot should steer clear of it. Some of these allergies may be to gelatin or certain antibiotics. Before getting the flu shot, it is essential to be aware of your current health condition, including such allergies.
Along with the injectable vaccine, a nasal spray version exists. However, this form has a few more restrictions when it comes to who should and should not get it. Some people who should NOT receive a nasal flu vaccine are:
- Children younger than 2 years
- Adults 50 years and older
- Pregnant women
- People with life-threatening allergies to any of the ingredients
- People with weakened immune systems
- Children 2-17 years old who are receiving aspirin or salicylate-containing medications
Integrative and holistic care practitioners recommend a natural wellness protocol for preventing or managing the seasonal flu. Dr. Amy Meyers recommends vitamin D and bone broth among other immune support during the flu season.
Where and when should you get the flu shot?
In another expert marketing campaign, flu shots are now being offered at pharmacies such as Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid. Many offer free flu shots around this time of the year. Also, applications like VaccineFinder can be extremely useful in finding the nearest vaccine providers.
If you choose the time tested way of taking care of yourself, and strengthening your immune system as your best defense for the flu you will be in the company of over 50% of Americans. Check out my other articles to brush up on natural prevention for management of seasonal colds and the flu.
Carly Neubert BA, NC
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