The Annual Flu
The Flu Shot, myths and facts and everything in between.
Written by our very own Dr. Carlye Jensen
I know that many of you reading this have various ideas about the flu and about the flu shot. Some of you are for it, some of you against it. I also know that the chances of me convincing you that flu shots are safe if you already hold a staunch belief that they are not are slim....but I am all for trying, so here goes.
The flu shot is safe. The flu shot is effective - not only for yourself but also for protecting your friends and family members.
Here are the arguments I hear every day and my rebuttals;
"I never get the flu, so I don't need the shot"
"I've never been in a car accident, I don't need to wear my seatbelt"
There is a first time for everything and you may as well protect yourself. Furthermore, you may be a carrier and pass on the illness to your colleagues, friends or family members. Getting your flu shot helps protect those around you and those for whom the vaccine is not as effective (like babies and those over 65 years old )
"Last year I got the flu shot and I still got the flu"
"I took my blood pressure and cholesterol medication but still
I had a heart attack, so I'll stop them now as they clearly don't work"
The flu vaccine is around 85% effective - not 100% effective. You can still get the
flu but you will likely have a MUCH milder case. This can happen also if you catch
a strain that is not covered by the vaccine manufactured for this year.
"I got the flu shot a few years ago and I was so sick afterward"
"I ate an ice cream one day and later that week it rained"
These two events are unrelated - the flu shot doesn't kick in for 2 weeks so you are still susceptible during that time period. The flu shot (unless you take the nasal one) does not contain ANY live virus, it cannot give you the flu...period. It is also given in the time of year that we are most likely to catch colds and the flu itself. Study after study has demonstrated that the rates of "being sick" post vaccination are the same in those vaccinated with real vaccine and placebo vaccine (around 17% of people).
"I don't get the flu shot because I am worried about Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS)"
"Good for you to know about GBS! I don't want you to get GBS either, so you should get the flu shot because GBS is far more common after native infection with influenza than vaccination"
GBS is a neurological condition thought to be related to the immune reaction to various infections or vaccinations. GBS occurs naturally around 1 per 100,000. With vaccination we see around 1 additional case per MILLION vaccinations. For influenza cases we see around 17 extra cases per MILLION influenza patients.
"I don't get the flu shot because it is all a big conspiracy with BIG PHARMA and the government"
"Okay - you are entitled to your opinion even if it makes you sound a little crazy. Seriously do you think your government is that smart?"
Seriously, influenza is EXPENSIVE! We spend a lot of money every year treating people with influenza and complications thereof. The flu shot is a great way to reduce our health care costs by limiting infection and the spread. Lots of very smart people with lots of letters behind their names have developed these vaccines and endorsed these vaccines as a public health program that has been shown to reduce illness, reduce time off work, reduce ER visits, hospital stays and even reduced heart attacks! Drug companies make far more moolah on other drugs like viagra and cholesterol medications and yet no one is screaming conspiracy at them.
BOTTOM LINE GET THE SHOT!
I got it. My kids got it. If I could give it to everyone in my family, I would.
If you catch the flu and you haven't had the flu shot you better believe your doctor will use this as an opportunity to say "I told you so" and you will likely not need convincing to get the shot next year. On a side note...There is all this hoopla about ebola right now and yet WAY more people will die of influenza this year. Influenza kills around 250,000 to 500,000 people worldwide each year. So far ebola hasn't broken 5,000. We have a vaccine for influenza, not for ebola, and yet people choose to not get it, and I just don't get that.
That's my 2 cents...I'll shut up now.
Dr. Carlye Jensen, Family Doctor, Emergency Doctor, Mom and Chief of Family Medicine, Uxbridge Site