Every year we hear we need to get the flu shot or aka the Influenza shot with flu season around the corner. We see it advertised in all our pharmacies and on television commercials. Where does the flu come from, how is the vaccine made, why do we get the vaccine in the fall, are there any side effects to getting the vaccine? With so many questions in my mind, I decided to do some research into this matter. Here is what I found out about the flu and the flu shot:
- Scientists do not know exactly how the influenza virus first originated however they have concluded that it somehow started in migratory waterfowl like wild ducks and geese. The flu virus populates inside the cell lining of the bird's intestinal tract.
- The flu virus spreads from animal to animal and from animal to human. It starts with birds and pigs. The flu spreads from person to personthrough airborne droplets from the nose or throat of an infected person, ie coughing and sneezing. You can not get the flu from cooked meat.
- The flu virus is categorized into three categories, A, B and C. A is the most common and serious and can cause large epidemics. B is less severe and will not usually cause large epidemics. C is the mildest, will not cause an epidemic and is similar to the common cold.
- The flu vaccine has been in existence since 1945.
- The flu infects the nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs and can lead to pneumonia.
- There are many different strains of the flu virus and it mutates year after year.
- The flu virus originates in Southeast Asia or Europe.
- The World Health Organization predicts which strain of the flu will occur in the winter and develop a vaccine. They take a trip to China each year to determine what strains are occurring.
- The vaccine takes 6 months to produce.
- The vaccine is made from purified and fertilized chicken eggs. The process itself is a lengthy one.
- The eggs used for this process are hard to come by.
- 100 million eggs are used in the US for the flu vaccine.
- The vaccine contains weakened or dead strains of influenza.
- The viruses are grown in chicken eggs, then killed with formaldehyde, purified and packaged in vials and syringes. Live viruses are packaged for the nasal sprayer version.
- The flu shot contains Type A and Type B influenza and this year's shot contain the H1N1 virus.
- The flu vaccine is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
- People should be vaccinated between August and September prior to the colder months when we stay inside more for longer periods. The flu occurs from April to September in the Southern Hemisphere.
- Vaccine is recommended for all people 6 months and older.
- The injectable vaccine may cause soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site which is seen in 15-20 percent of the people receiving the shot. One percent of the people will develop chills, fever and muscle aches, these flu symptoms are less severe than the flu itself.
- The flu vaccine has been proven to be 70% – 90% effective in people under 65 years old. The percentages vary due to matching a vaccine to the various flu viruses in any given year.
- The flu vaccine should not be given to children under 6 months old and to people who have a severe allergy to eggs or people with a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome. The nasal spray should only be used by people 2 to 49 years old and who are not pregnant.
Now that I have learned more about the flu vaccine, I understand why there is a vaccine but I still have more questions. The vaccine reduces the number of flu cases and controls the spread and development of more serious life-threatening respiratory illnesses like pneumonia. But the flu vaccine is only 70% – 90% effective, that means 10% – 30% is ineffective. If we are taking all these medications are we destroying all the antibodies in our system that could fight a more severe mutation? Another concern of mine is what the long-term effect of these shots and sprays are? Yes, the vaccine has been around since 1945, but maybe it is contributing to other diseases, like Autism or Alzheimer's. Is there statistical data from those people who have received the shot consistently since 1945?
In my research, like the PROS that favor receiving the flu shot, there are CONS in favor of not receiving the shot. The Con group feels that the CDC promotes the flu shot for mere revenue purposes. They feel the CDC promotes false or misleading statements with claims that the flu shot will prevent respiratory ailments like pneumonia however pneumonia is a bacteria and not a virus like influenza. They also believe the CDC falsifies the number of deaths from the flu. The CDC advertises thousands die from the flu when in their reports they have only a few hundred. How many people die from pneumonia that had a flu shot? My sister, for example, had the flu shot and developed pneumonia in the same year and one of cousins had the flu shot and then developed pleurisy. Also, the predictions of what flu strains will be prevalent in a given year are not always accurate, some years they have been completely wrong. Did we all die because they were wrong or was there an increase in flu cases those years? The flu virus predication is a guessing game. People receiving vaccines may be getting it for no reason if the wrong virus is used that year. There is also controversy over the preservatives used in the flu vaccine. One preservative is Thimerosal which is used in many medications to prevent bacterial contamination. It has mercury known as ethylmercury which is different than fish mercury known as methylmercury. High levels of methylmercury can be toxic. Studies of ethylmercury say it is safe but in an effort to reduce mercury levels of all kinds, manufacturers have changed their production using less of this mercury or none at all.
Well there you have it with what the flu shot is all about. Are you totally confused on whether or not to get the shot? I am on the fence and have never had the flu vaccine. I am approaching my senior years, however, I am not dead yet from getting the flu several times. I may change my mind when I am older and my body becomes frailer or I have a near death flu experience but in the meantime while I am still strong and healthy I opt not to get it. Do not let my decisions impact you; I am just not in favor of injecting myself with medicine and have a difficult time even taking vitamins. Please let me know what you decide and why. I hope you found this information helpful. Thank you, Kathryn Alexander.