A lot of people often relegate the flu to ordinary fever. What they don’t know is that influenza is anything but ordinary, and should not be taken lightly. Each year, over 40,000 people die from flu-related causes and send over 200,000 people to the hospitals in the U.S. alone. The medical and hospitalization bills associated with it are no joke. Under the circumstances, prevention is the best course to take.
But what exactly is a flu vaccine? A majority of people receives the shot with no knowledge of what it is or what it really is for. Like most vaccines, the flu shot is made with a form of flu virus that is dead or weakened and would no longer give you influenza. Although there have been cases where the weakened strain of the flu virus or nasal flu vaccine has transferred a virus, it is a rarity.
- Traditional flu shot protect against three types of flu viruses, while a quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against 4 different flu viruses — two influenza A and two influenza B.
- Flu shots are seasonal and should be received every year because flu viruses change. This means a different type of vaccine has to be used as well.
- Based on CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices that have been in place since February 24, 2010, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every season. Children 2 through 8 years old are recommended to have the nasal spray vaccine.
- People who are 65 years and older should get the high-dose version of the flu vaccine Fluzone, whenever it is available.
- Some people may require a different type of flu shot, depending on their age, health and allergies.
Despite its use as a preventive measure, there have been questions about the efficacy of the influenza vaccine. Some people claim that it is linked to autism, and may cause allergic reactions. As a means to protect against flu, fever may follow after a shot, which is kind of ironic. So is it good or bad?
List of Pros a Flu Shot
1. Reduces the risk of getting the flu
People who receive the flu shot every season is 70% less likely to have influenza or develop symptoms that are often annoying than painful, such as congestion, cough, fever and body aches. This is according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which leaves little doubt of the fact’s credibility. So, despite what other people may think, influenza vaccine is good for you.
The best time to get the flu shot is during the holiday seasons when everyone is likely to give hugs and kisses that could be a mode of transfer of the flu virus. Or you can have it during the flu season, which makes more sense.
2. Protects against other potentially serious health conditions
Influenza is a common viral infection that is highly contagious, but as long as the patient stays at home and away from crowded areas, the spread of the virus is minimized. Most of the time, a patient will feel better in a few days, but not when he belongs in high risk groups, such as those with weakened immune system, have long-term medical condition, pregnant or elderly.
For these individuals, an influenza attack would complicate to chest infection, worsening of existing conditions, and rare complications, such as meningitis, encephalitis, febrile seizures and tonsillitis. This means protecting yourself against influenza will protect you from life-threatening health conditions. So getting a flu shot to begin with would make you less susceptible to serious complications.
3. Reduces the risk of flu-related deaths among the elderly
The elderly and individuals with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart diseases, who get vaccinated is 80% less likely to die from flu. As previously mentioned, influenza can worsen existing conditions, which is likely to lead to death. Diabetes patients, for example, would see an increase in their blood sugar levels when they have the flu, potentially leading to hyperglycemia. Under the circumstances, a flu vaccine is the best form of protection.
4. Protects against more than one strain of flu virus
A flu shot protects against 3 to 4 strains of the flu virus, which is something that other vaccines are incapable of. This means you have more protection with just one shot. Whoever said that getting an influenza vaccine is pointless probably didn’t know anything about this particular fact. What is even better is that the newest flu shot not only protects against a strain of H1N1, but also against potential Northern hemisphere contaminants.
5. Lowers the risk of an endemic
Influenza is highly contagious, especially during its early stages. Because the virus takes at least a week to incubate and fully manifest any symptoms, an infected patient could be out and about spreading infections. Before anyone knows it, an entire office, classroom or community is already infected. If you have the flu shot, you would not be the source of disease and you would not be infected by the virus either.
6. Reduces the possibility of pregnancy complications
The flu can prove problematic when it occurs during pregnancy. Although the risks are low, there is a possibility that an expectant mother might go into premature labor because of the flu. It might also have an effect on the baby’s birth weight. In rare instances, influenza has also been associated with miscarriage or stillbirth. Considering the many possibilities, it is highly recommended for a pregnant woman to get seasonal flu shot.
7. Provides a cost-effective preventive measure
A flu shot is often given free, and if it comes with a fee, it is usually at a very low cost, compared to the medical and hospital bills you will incur when you get sick. This explains why companies prefer to spend money on having their employees vaccinated rather than lose plenty of man hours and doling out paychecks that have no output because an employee is at home still recuperating.
List of Cons of Flu Shots
1. Aggravates allergies
The vaccine is cultivated through the inside of a chicken egg, and may cause a reaction to someone allergic to the poultry product. If you are already aware of your egg allergies, it is best to consult with your doctor before getting a flu shot. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, however, the amount of egg protein in influenza vaccine is so low that it is not enough to cause a reaction. Still, they warn against it with patients who have severe egg allergy.
2. Only reduces the possibility of getting sick
Although the shot will protect you against the flu, it will not boost your immune system. If your immunity is weak to begin with, you might still be affected with the flu virus. The flu shot may decrease the risk of you coming down with influenza, but not completely eradicate the possibility.
3. Immediate protection is not guarantee
It takes roughly two weeks before the effect of a flu shot will kick in, which means you are vulnerable within those periods and your immune system might be compromised. In the event that the virus is stronger than your immunity, the flu shot will be rendered useless. Also, if you are already infected by the flu virus before you get the shot, it would lead to the same effect. This is one reason that people would rather not have the flu shot. As much as proponents would like to think an influenza vaccine is all good, this is one reality they have to accept.
4. Contains mercury
Although it only has a small amount of mercury, opponents of flu shot still thinks the presence of mercury can damage a human body’s system one way or another. People who would not want to expose themselves to mercury for any reason, also think negatively of the influenza vaccine. Unfortunately, mercury serves as a preservative and will always be part and parcel of the shot. Experts, however, say that it will not have an adverse effect as long as it is administered by a professional.
5. Has several side effects
People with weak immune system is likely to get sick following a flu shot, which is why some opponents campaign against the vaccine. High fever, aching joints, headache, nausea, runny nose, wheezing and vomiting are also common side effects of a flu. In some cases, bruising and swelling will occur on the area where the shot has been administered. In more serious cases, side effects may include swollen eyes or lips, hives, weakness, trouble breathing, dizziness and changes in behavior.
6. Has certain limitations
Not everyone are qualified to get a shot, those younger than 6 months old, those with severe egg allergies and those that showed allergic reaction to the vaccine. This means that they are vulnerable to the many virus strains of the flu and would have to be protected by other means, which could be more expensive. If they are suffering from existing conditions that could worsen with influenza, their vulnerability increase twofold.
Not everyone sing their praises with a flu shot, but proponents still think they do more good than harm. Do you think a flu vaccine is right for you?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.