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Do You Get Vaccinated Against Influenza?

This article was written by in Health. 21 comments.


My company was offering vaccinations today for any employees wanting to gain protection from the flu this season. By the early afternoon, they ran out of vaccine and added another date a week from now to the schedule for those who did not get a chance.

I’ve never opted for the flu vaccine. It has always been my method of operation to take my chances and deal with the flu (without prescription medication) if the virus finds its way into my system. Last year, however, I had a tough time, and was out of commission more often than I would have liked. I suppose this comes with the territory of having a girlfriend whose job is to spend 8 hours a day with twenty-five ten-year-old germ balls.

Flu (influenza) virusI’ve always held the opinion that I shouldn’t need to introduce any more medication into my body than absolutely necessary. Not only that, but the vaccine works only against specific strains of influenza but is not very effective overall. As a relatively healthy individual, I do not have a high risk of complications from the flu, so other than missing a few days of work feeling sick, I don’t think it will hurt to skip the vaccine. Doing so might even mean that there is one more shot available for a young child or elderly individual with high risk for complications.

How about you? Will you be receiving the vaccination?

For some interesting reading, take a look and compare the information presented in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Seasonal Flu information page (strongly pro-vaccination), Wikipedia’s entry on the flu vaccine (somewhat neutral and scientific), and the British Medical Journal’s Influenza Vaccination: Policy Versus Evidence (strongly conclusive against vaccination).

Published or updated November 5, 2007. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Michelle

I always get the flu vaccine, even though I’m young and healthy. Here’s my reasoning–

first of all, here’s the financial side. It cost me $15 this year, which is similar to previous years. Let’s say I get the flu once every 3 years, and the vaccine usually prevents it. That costs me $45 to prevent being sick for 2 days or so. I have an hourly job, and make about $100 a day. It’s more than worth it to get the vaccine.

Before I started getting vaccinated, I’d usually get the flu every year. I haven’t had it in the last 5 years. I think my numbers aren’t too far off.

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avatar Taylor

I work in a health care setting, so my organization requires that I get one. That being said, I still managed to catch the flu :(

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avatar Dan

I have to get the vaccine… the military requires it.

Personally I think its worth it since I haven’t gone down with the flu the years I’ve got it.

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avatar Yana

My husband and I do not get flu shots, and never have. His employer offers them free to employees, and he is the only one to turn it down. We think the shots are of no positive value other than to those who get paid to produce them. This year, my husband told his co-worker buddy that he ought not to get the shot. This co-worker is 40, and had open heart surgery in his early 30s. The experts say that people like this should get the shot. He did get the shot, and within 10 days was in the hospital with a high fever and a severe infection on his leg, which had been weakened previously. He was seriously ill. We think that when you are injected with a virus, that virus will find a place to go. Fortunately, this co-worker survived, but we are convinced his problem was caused by the shot. And now he has another problem, and that is that the employer has cut his hours way down due to all the time he spent being ill.

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avatar MedWanderer

Yana- You highlite one of the common misconceptions of the influenza vaccine. There is no virus in the vaccine. The vaccine is made of some sugar and protein chains that are similar to the capsule that a live virus has. There is nothing infective there. The shot had nothing to do with your friends leg infection unless they injected it in his leg (which they don’t) and it formed an abscess.

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avatar Lily

There are a few parts to your argument against the vaccine.

(1) “I shouldn’t need to introduce any more medication into my body than absolutely necessary.” The flu shot introduces dead virus into your system, which then learns to fight the virus. There’s no additional “medication” involved. It’s not like taking antibiotics for no reason.

(2) “The vaccine works only against specific strains of influenza but is not very effective overall.” Yes, the flu is very mutable. That’s why you get a shot every year, because the strain in this year’s vaccine won’t protect you against the strain that might be spreading next year. Each year the World Health Organization coordinates the effort to determine what strains are most likely to spread that year. The flu vaccine is targeted; it doesn’t need to protect against every strain of flu (even if that science were possible) because you won’t be exposed to every strain of flu each year. Sure, the science isn’t foolproof and the scientists in charge of determining which strains are to be targeted this year can’t be 100% sure. But they’re not exactly throwing darts at a list of strains, either.

(3) “As a relatively healthy individual … I don’t think it will hurt to skip the vaccine.” The risk to YOU is a couple of days out of commission. But vaccines are both a private AND a public good. If you get the vaccine, not only do you get the benefit of protection, but everyone you interact with will be safer as well because you can’t be a carrier for the virus. They don’t even have to get the vaccine to reap the benefits. Not fair to you, especially if you have to pay for the vaccine, but all in all it is better for the community.

(4) “[Skipping the vaccine] might even mean that there is one more shot available for a young child or elderly individual with high risk for complications.”

This would only be true if everyone else in your office decided not to get the vaccine. Your employer has already purchased the vaccine. Your fellow employees showed high demand, so your employer got more. As far as this year goes, that vaccine is already not available to “a young child or elderly individual with high risk for complications,” unless such a child or elderly individual works with you and is competing against you for your employer’s vaccine. You might as well take it to protect yourself and those around you.

By the way, it makes economic sense for employers to pay for the vaccine. It may seem like no big deal for you to miss a couple of days of work, but if you get the flu, take a couple of coworkers with you, and you’re all out of commission for a few days, that impacts your employer’s bottom line.

Vaccines are one of the strangest economic facts in everyday life. If no one got it, everyone would be worse off. If one person got it, everyone would be a little better off, but that person would pay disproportionately for the benefits that other people enjoy. If everyone but one person got it, that one person doesn’t NEED to get it, since there’s no one s/he could catch the disease from. If X number of people got it, some others might think they don’t need it, since almost everyone else is safe. So on and so forth.

As for people who have violent reactions to the vaccine, that shouldn’t happen for the most part. As your body gets acclimated to the vaccine, you might have some mild cold-like symptoms. Violent reactions are probably actually due to an allergy to eggs, since the dead virus is incubated in eggs.

I got the shot last week, as did my boyfriend. Mine didn’t hurt, not even a pinch. His RN was a little stabbier with the needle and he experienced a little muscle pain. But we were both 100% the day after.

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avatar Jason Kratz

Oh man. Talk about a ridiculous post (and some of the comments) based on totally being misinformed. Get the flu shot. As already noted not only does it save you from the flu but it means you don’t pass it on to someone else. Read the CDC page to find out more.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,370 (Platinum)

Jason: I cited that CDC page as *one* source of information… but not all experts agree with every point argued by the CDC. You need to open your mind to the possibility that any one source does not always present full information. The flu shot is not always beneficial for people who are all ready healthy and who maintain good health practices during the peak season for the virus.

Could you get the flu even if you are healthy and careful? Yes. Could you get the flu even if you are vaccinated (thanks to mutated strains, or just other pre-existing strains not covered by your particular vaccination)? YES. Does the flu shot reduce your chances of contracting influenza? It depends (on the strains, on how healthy you are in the first place, et.al.).

You have to read *more* than just the CDC page if you want to learn. Look beyond the regular pharmaceutical PR into scientific studies NOT financed by drug companies making money from the vaccination. Actually, this information is readily available, just not as widely publicized or financed, but easily dismissed by anyone who tends to swallow whatever information a government organizations throw at them.

I’m not saying the CDC is *wrong* but you have to consider all scientific sources, not just the most popular and best financed ones.

The process of making the flu vaccine would make you think our system of medicine hasn’t progressed since the eighteenth century… the virus is incubated in chicken eggs and then inactivate (killed) with chemicals in order to make the vaccine.

Now, the vaccination may not *harm* an individual, but I don’t see a need to put extra chemicals and dead virus cells into my body unless necessary. (Yet I eat fast food occasionally, so it’s not like my body is a temple.)

The bottom line is there are a lot of things to consider before making a choice, not just CDC information.

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avatar Sasha ♦644 (Dime)

My company gives flu shots for free, so I get it every year unless I’ve got a cold at the time of the shot.

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avatar MoneyFwd

Although many people think they are young and healthy so they don’t need a flu shot, you should remember that the 1918 flu that killed millions affected healthy young adults (the first case was a 20-something in the military) more than children and the elderly.

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avatar ib

flexo, your company employs young children???

just kidding :)

i don’t get the flu shot either.
when my risks increase (with age or otherwise) i may begin to get them, although i have numerous sensitivities.
btw, i have known people that got sick as a direct result of the flu shot.
personally, colds are more debilitating to me than flu (colds can last multiple weeks on me) although i have found ways to not catch every single one like i used to.

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avatar H Lee D

I have never gotten a flu shot and have been able to keep healthy with good eating, lots of exercise, and lots of sleep (and extra sleep when I feel something coming on). I also don’t like to put chemicals into my body (and don’t eat fast food); I wouldn’t make it through a small bottle of Advil before it expired.

That said, I am in the final stages of treatment for cancer, which means: 1-my immune system is compromised; 2-my body is all kinds of full of chemicals now anyway, between 5 months of chemo and other drugs to offset the side effects of the chemo. I will be talking to my oncologist to see what he recommends.

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avatar Kat

I will not be getting one, even though a number of places are offering them.
Personally, I see no point in them. If there is going to be a pandemic on a scale like the 1918 pandemic, it will happen with or without the flu shot.

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avatar Nancy

I’m a nurse and neither I nor most of the nurses I know chose to take the flu vaccine, even though it is provided to us without cost. The vaccine you receive this year is made to cover last year’s strain of flu. Just how much sense does it make to be vaccinated this year against last year’s flu? The winner here is clearly Big Pharma. It’s all about the money. If you really want to protect yourself against the flu, eat a nutritionaly sound diet, supplemented with vitamins and stay away from the coughers and sneezers.

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avatar SingleGuyMoney

I have never had flu shot and luckily, I haven’t come down with the flu..yet.

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avatar Jason Kratz

The vaccine would be pointless if it were based on last year’s strains, that is why it changes every year and why they research which strains are circulating and will likely be circulating in the fall/winter.

“Stay away from the coughers and the sneezers”. Yeah this is wonderful advice if you’re living in the middle of nowhere. Not very good advice for those who live in large cities. Also ridiculous considering people can transmit the virus before they are coughing and sneezing or even know they are sick….but you’re a nurse right? You’d know all this.

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avatar Chief Family Officer

I got my flu shot in September. I started getting them a couple of years ago when my oldest was a baby (I tried to get one when I was pregnant with him, but that was the year of the great shortage, when there were hundreds if not thousands of people lined up at drug stores and elderly people were dying from heatstroke here in Southern Cal while they were waiting in line). I get it because my kids get it and we’re all so exposed to so many germs that it seems prudent to minimize all of our risk. My husband and I have still come down with a serious cold/flu each year since our oldest was born but maybe it would have been worse, who knows.

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avatar Looby

@ Nancy the flu vaccine is not made to cover last year’s strain of flu it is based on early emerging strains of the current season, that’s why it’s available only late in the year. Staying away from coughers and sneezers would be a great idea, shame about the infectious people in the latent stage of the virus. Also unless you have a medical condition that effects how you absorb food you shouldn’t need a vitamin supplement (except possibly vitamin d if you are elderly) if you have a good diet. Ultimately I will be getting my vaccine again this year, as I have an epidemiologists view of the population level. Also the BMA article is not against the vaccine but against the policies in place regarding the vaccine. The author does not call for the vaccine to be withdrawn, simply for better studies to prove the level of effectiveness, it’s efficacy is not questioned.

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avatar Carla1120

No offense, but I think Nancy is a liar. No nurse with common sense would actually believe that the flu vaccination is for last years’ strain. Come on! You are either not a nurse, or are, like my mother-in-law, who’s a registered nurse and still reaches for pink elephants in the sky! Sorry to be rude, but I hate when people lie.

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avatar Suze

Yes, this year’s flu vaccine is based on last year’s flu virus. It takes time to incubate the virus, create the vacine, replicate the serum and distribute it, etc etc. It is the best bet that our medical profession has. I do agree with Nancy that the best defense is good nutrition, staying away from sick folk if possible, etc. I would include exercise to her list, too. Nancy is not a liar. She has very sound advice. Often times we depend on the medical profession to give us a pill or shot to safe guard us and we do not do the common sense things that are within our control to keep us well.

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avatar Angie

I have had the flu twice in my life. I also had the flu shot twice. Once when I was a child and the other time when I volunteered at a nursing home. I am in my mid 30′s now and have not had the flu in over 14 years. Everyone in my house chose to receive the flu shot this year except for me. Now everyone has the flu but not me. I dont even have a runny nose…and they thought I was crazy for not running for my flu shot.

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