Pro Or Con, Here's What You Need to Know About This Year's Flu Shot

October 19, 2015
by Michelle Pellizzon for Thrive Market
Pro Or Con, Here's What You Need to Know About This Year's Flu Shot

After last year's flu shot fail, many Americans are weighing whether or not to get a stick in the arm this fall.

The 2015 flu vaccine didn't do much for many people—its efficacy was a mere 23 percent, according to the CDC.  But even though it wasn't a slam dunk last year, the Center for Disease Control recommends getting the shot.

The reason? Because the flu is serious business. Depending on how brutal the strain, five to 20 percent of the population contracts it globally each year, and 200,000 are hospitalized. If you're in good health when you catch the nasty thing, you have to worry about missing work and school for three to five days,at three to five days of nausea, fever, chills, body aches, and a whole boatload of other uncomfortable symptoms. But those who are in compromised health should worry about developing more serious issues like pneumonia, heart issues, and even death.

But the vaccine isn't failsafe, which is why so many people choose not to get it.  (Despite doctors' urgings, over half of the population skips the flu shot every season—either out of medical worry, expense, or  inconvenience.) The reason is simple: The formulation is a basically an educated guessing game.

Each year, scientists use data to predict what strain of flu is likely to hit.  The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) develops the vaccine in mid-spring, and then various labs across the country start producing it.

Because it's developed months in advance of peak flu season, NIAID scientists are hedging their bets. Last year, they didn't get it quite right. And in general, according to the Cochrane Research Center, the influenza vaccine doesn't usually work very well.

But that doesn't mean that it won't work this year, and for young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems, it may be worth the risks that are sometimes associated with the vaccine. (These individuals are the highest-risk populations for the flu, and are highly recommended to get the vaccine as soon as possible every flu season.) In fact, doctors encourage every person over six months old to get vaccinated against the influenza virus.

Dr. Mark Hyman points out that certain types of the flu vaccine contain trace amounts of mercury, formaldehyde, egg proteins, and various additives that could trigger allergic effects in some people. There has been no long term research that indicates that the trace amounts of mercury in these vaccines is deleterious to the human body.

There isn't any evidence that the flu vaccine is damaging to our health. So if you do decide to get the shot, do it soon. Technically, flu season begins in October and lasts through May, but the peak of the epidemic usually hits from December to February. Getting the vaccine by October is incredibly important for avoiding the flu, according to the CDC, as it takes about two weeks to kick in and start protecting against the virus.

As always, consult with your doctor if you're truly concerned about getting the vaccine or the flu this winter. And in the meantime, support your immune system as much as you can!

Illustration by Karley Koenig

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This article is related to: Flu, Health, Cold, Flu shot, Influenza

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  • Wingman

    Michelle,

    While you state that, "There isn't any evidence that the flu vaccine is damaging to our health." you fail to point out that the The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has found in favor of the flu vaccine injured based on an analysis of the evidence, including medical records and the scientific and medical literature.

    The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Trust Fund provides funding for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate vaccine-related injury or death claims for covered vaccines administered on or after October 1, 1988. The Trust Fund is funded by a $0.75 excise tax on vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for routine administration to children. The excise tax is imposed on each dose (disease that is prevented) of a vaccine.

    Filings 01/01/2006 through 12/31/2014

    Influenza:
    1024 Cases settled between the parties
    and
    91 Cases Concession/ Court Decision:
    HHS concludes that a petition should be compensated based on a thorough review and analysis of the evidence, including medical records and the scientific and medical literature. The HHS review concludes that the petitioner is entitled to compensation, including a determination either that it
    is more likely than not that the vaccine caused the injury or the evidence supports fulfillment of the criteria of the Vaccine Injury Table. The Court also
    determines that the petition should be compensated.

    For injury claims, compensable court decisions are based in part on one of the following determinations by the court:

    1. The evidence is legally sufficient to show that the vaccine more likely than not caused (or significantly aggravated) the injury; or

    2. The injury is listed on, and meets all of the requirements of, the Vaccine Injury Table, and HHS has not proven that a factor unrelated to the vaccine more likely than not caused or significantly aggravated the injury. An injury listed on the Table and meeting all Table requirements is given the legal presumption of causation. It should be noted that conditions are placed on the Table for both scientific and policy reasons.

    source:http://www.hrsa.gov/vaccinecompensation/vicpmonthlyoctober15.pdf"

  • GanjaQueen

    Definitely can attest to why I HAVEN'T GOTTEN ANY in almost 20 yrs. Last time (and seemly every time before it) I got one I was around 13 (I'm 32 now) and ended up not only still getting the flu, but then having it stick around & turn into 'walking' pneumonia (and I stated earlier, this too, was not the only time that happen in my youth--got pneumonia few times prior to that one once I received the flu shot). I've done better toughing out any 'bugs' I have gotten w/ natural prevention & the occasional otc stuff than getting one of those again.

  • http://www.findingmyfitness.com/ Jason Jacobs

    The only times I've gotten the flu are when I've gotten the shot. That is to say the shot made me sick. They lay me out for like 3 days every time. The way I look at it, I can guarantee I'll miss work because of the flu if I get the shot, or I might not miss work because of the flu if I don't get the shot. Or I might. But my chances of missing work because of the flu have been greater when I have gotten the shot. I realize that's not a scientific trial, but there you go. :)

  • Bailey Lang

    You forgot to mention the thousands of people last year who got the flu shot and didn't get sick and end up in the hospital. The flu is responsible for tens of thousands of hospitalizations every year. Last years flu shot was not even that bad. A highly successful flu shot is 40%-50% effective. You also forgot to mention all of the people who die from flu complications every year because someone spread it to them and their immune systems are too compromised to handle it. A UK study from 2004-2007 found that 73% of people have the flu virus and never even show any symptoms. It is a silly thing to not get something that does no harm, has even a slight chance to save you from illness, and will surely prevent someone else from getting ill because you didn't unknowingly spread it to them standing in line at a coffee shop. Also, none of the children's shots contain thimerisol. And you can also get an egg free vaccine if you are HIGHLY allergic. Highly allergic means you go into anaphylaxis. If you can eat cooked eggs and raw eggs are the problem, the regular shot is fine. Also, pretty much every single insurance provider is covering the flu shot this year, with $0 copay. And that 23% effective data from last years flu shot is actually inaccurate because now that all the data has been collected, the CDC gave a report last week that last year's shot was actually more effective than presumed. Get your flu shots people! Stop listening to Jenny McCarthy and listen to an actual MD every once in awhile. ALSO VEGANS....the egg free one is for people with true allergies and is highly limited. I am a very strict vegan, no lactobacillus probiotics or honey or leather or anything like that, but I take the flu shot that is derived from egg embryos because I do not want someone else to not be able to receive a flu shot because I decided to take that moment to take a stand for my beliefs