The Big Debate Over Getting the Flu Shot

Updated on January 11, 2018

Flu Shots

If you have been listening to the news, your doctor, your friends, and maybe even your mother, you have heard a lot about the flu lately. It’s running rampant right now, and according to the CDC’s situation update of January 5, 2018, there are already 13 reported deaths this year—and that was only the children. It seems like everyone would be rushing to get their flu shot, right? No, the debate over the flu shot is ever raging on.

Getting the flu shot has been something I have been vacillating over whether I should be doing for some time. I have received one pretty much every year for the last decade, while many of my friends speak of the dangers associated with having it. The arguments go something like this: “I got the shot once and I got the flu.” Or “Did you know there is mercury in those?” and the general, “Aren’t those supposed to be dangerous?” And finally, “A doctor/nurse said they wouldn’t take it, that’s good enough for me.”

Now, I am not scoffing at these replies…well, not all of them. The “got the flu from the shot” does not really hold water with me when you look at the facts, but the other comments have made me take notice. They are why I have been reading articles and researching many sources for the past few months. You might ask what I decided.

Research and Discovery

The research can get a little confusing. Each side has some pretty good arguments for and against it. Based on the idea that not everyone can be lying, I can tell you a few things I learned.

  1. The flu shot does not cover the common cold or simple flu symptoms. It covers the kind of flu strains that can kill you. Three in fact. The A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. (CDC - Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine)
  2. What many say is the flu is not. Some say they have the flu because they are congested or have a fever, but the flu is much worse than the symptoms of a cold. (WebMD – What is the Flu?)
  3. You cannot get the flu from the shot. The virus is dead and if you do get the flu you either already had it before the shot or you got it before the shot took effect, which can take up to 2 weeks. The shot is also not total protection. You can still sometimes get the flu but usually less severely. (Harvard Health Publishing – 10 Flu Myths)
  4. Is there mercury in the flu shot? Well yes and no. Thimerosal is a preservative and is a mercury-containing organic compound (an organomercurial). It is put in to prevent harmful microbes. What is used is equivalent to what you would find in a can of tuna. However, they are using it less and less so it's not always present and if you are worried you can ask for a vaccine without it. (U.S. Food and Drug – Thimerosal and Vaccines)
  5. The flu is said not to be a life-threatening disease. There can be an argument for this statement. If you are healthy you can fight the illness, but if not, it could make you severely ill or kill you. Many feel the risk of the shot outweighs the risk of the flu and do holistic things to avoid or overcome it. (Holistic Squad – Should I Get a Flu Shot?)
  6. Against popular belief, the flu shot does not lower your immune system. The flu shot actually teaches your immune system how to fight off the flu in the future. Getting the flu can do the same thing, so that’s a wash. Another wash is that the flu shot gives you Guillain-Barré syndrome. This can happen to a few people, but then again, so can getting the flu. There are convincing arguments on both sides. (New York Times – Does the Flu Provide Better Immunity Than a Flu Shot?)
  7. Once you get the flu you are immune, right? Nope, it is a viral infection and can mutate each and every year. (Best Health – Influenza)

So, what’s my take away? At least for now, I will continue to get the flu shot. Later if new research arises, I might be more convinced, but after a decade of not getting the flu in any form, I think I will stick with the shot. I also have a compromised immune system so in my opinion, it makes sense for me to do so. However, I do understand why others choose not to.

As I said, the research is vast and, at times, contradictory. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what works best for them. Hopefully, I have summed up some of the confusion for you here, but if you are like me and are searching for answers, this may just be the beginning.

© 2018 Lorelei Nettles

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