With winter just around the corner, flu season is once again upon us and the controversy over the flu vaccine still lingers on many parent’s minds. The debate on whether or not the vaccine is harmful or even works at all is the main reason people skip their annual flu shot.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone age six months and older should receive the flu shot. Children, pregnant women, people 65 and older, and people who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are considered to be at highest risk for contracting the flu and should be the first to receive the vaccine.
What is the flu vaccine?
Every year about nine months before flu season starts, scientists cultivate a new flu vaccine that will protect people from 3 strains of the flu virus. The scientists make an educated guess on which 3 strains will be most common during the upcoming season. There are 2 types of vaccines available, the injection and the nasal spray. The injection or “flu shot” contains the dead virus and is injected into the arm. This option is available for everyone age six months and older. The nasal spray is made with live, weakened flu viruses that does NOT contain thimerosol and cannot cause the flu according to the CDC. The nasal spray is available for healthy people between the age of 2 and 50, and should not be given to people with asthma, reactive airway disease, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and/or kidney disease. Both vaccines take about two weeks to start producing antibodies. This means people are still able to contract the flu during this time. People should be vaccinated as soon as it is available to allow time for immunity to build up.
What are the benefits of the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine can protect children and adults from serious illness and even death. In the United States around 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized because of the flu. By getting the flu vaccine this year not only would you be protecting yourself but others around you by preventing the spread of the virus to more people.
What are the possible side effects of the vaccine?
Side effects of the flu shot: Since the virus in the vaccine is dead you cannot get the flu from the shot however, you may experience some side effects such as soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given, fever, or aches. If any of these side effects do occur they should not last longer than 1 to 2 days. The vaccine is also prepared on a chicken egg embryo so people with severe allergies to chicken should take precautions.
Side effects for the nasal spray: Side effects in children can include, runny nose, wheezing, headache, vomiting, fever, and muscle aches. Side effects in adults can include runny nose, sore throat, headache, and cough.
What are some reasons people are against the flu shot?
1. The main objection to the vaccine is that it only protects you from 3 out of about 250 different strains of the flu virus. While these 3 strains are the most common it is still very likely to contract a different strain of the flu virus. There is no way the vaccine can protect you from the flu completely and therefore people fore-go the vaccine all together.
2. The vaccine is that the injection (flu shot) still contains thimerosol, a preservative that contains mercury. Mercury can be very harmful to the human body and especially children, causing severe illnesses later on.
The decision is up to you!
In the end the decision to get yourself or your children vaccinated is completely up to you.
So what will you do this flu season?
For a list of locations where the vaccine is available please visit http://flushot.healthmap.org/ and enter your zip code.