Trick Or Treat: Flu Shots

I was saving this post for October, but I’m going to go ahead and post it since I’ve been asked about flu shots at almost every visit this week.

Vaccines are a controversial topic for the non-medical world. Pediatricians fight this battle on a daily basis. Science has shown us that vaccines work and that they do not cause autism. While we are now largely safe from measles and mumps and my children will likely never have to worry about chicken pox and subsequently shingles, we still have those who choose not to vaccinate. Specifically, we have adult patients who chose to forego flu shots, even if they do choose to vaccinate their children for communicable diseases. If you have kids or elderly parents or relatives, get the flu shot to protect them.

2017-2018 flu epidemic was scary. The flu killed 180 children according to the CDC reports. It was putting young healthy adults and teenagers in the intensive care units.

My husband was sick with the flu for 7 days. The guy is IRON MAN. His immune system is incredible. This was the first illness he has had since I met him in 2009 (aside from that one time as a bachelor that he ate questionable food from his fridge). He some how dodged the stomach virus every single time it strikes our house. He works out daily and eats pretty healthy. He takes very good care of himself and even he couldn’t avoid the flu last season. He was flat on his back for 7 days and I was truly concerned that I was going to have to take him to the hospital when he started coughing up blood. I forced him to go see his doctor (ironic, huh?)and he tested positive for flu A. Chest X-ray showed that the blood was just from irritation in his throat and not from a raging pneumonia. He recovered and neither me nor the kids got the flu from him. The flu shot protected us. It also protected me from the patients I diagnosed with the flu on a daily basis for 16 weeks that flu season plagued us.

So let’s tackle some flu vaccine myths.

Flu shot myth #1: “The flu shot gave me the flu.”

No. No it did not. The flu vaccine contains DEAD virus particles. We inject you with pieces of the flu virus so your immune system can “see” it and build antibodies. If you felt bad after the shot, it’s because your immune system was actually responding to dead virus. Imagine what a living virus would do if the shot made you feel bad.

Flu shot myth #2: “I don’t care what you say. It gave me the flu.”

Nope. The flu virus is not Jesus. It cannot rise from the dead. It is also not a Zombie. There is no living dead viruses. Perhaps it was just a cold.

Flu shot myth #3: “But I did! I tested positive for the flu.”

If you truly had the flu after you got the flu shot, then you had already contracted it in the days prior, OR your flu shot had not had time to be effective. It takes 2-4 weeks for your flu shot to be effective, which is why we get you to get it prior to the winter months.

Flu shot myth #4: “I’ve never gotten the flu shot and I’ve never gotten the flu. I’m immune to it.”

No, you have been lucky! There are hundreds of strains of the flu. You are not immune. Just trust me.

Flu shot myth #5: “They aren’t even effective.”

Some years, the vaccine is more effective than others. Last year the vaccine was about 40% effective against combined Flu A and B. Broken down by virus type: 25% against A (H3N2), 65% against A (H1N1) and 49% against influenza B viruses.

So basically, for every 5 people that got the shot, 2 did not get the flu at all. The other 3 that got the shot but wound up with the flu anyways experienced a shorter duration, less severe symptoms, and less hospitalization/death rates than those who were unvaccinated. In fact, historically speaking, as many as 85% of pediatric flu deaths occur in children who were unvaccinated.

Flu shot myth #6: “But I’m allergic to eggs.”This is no longer an issue. You are able to get the flu shot even if you’re allergic to eggs.

Flu shot myth #7: “It contains all those dangerous chemicals.”

If you’re worried about thimersol, they make vaccines that do not include it. However, thimersol has been proven to be safe.

Flu shot myth #8: “I got the flu shot last year. I don’t need it every year.”

The flu vaccines contains different strains each year. The virus changes so rapidly from year to year (genetic drift) that we are constantly having to “update” our vaccine. You know, just like McAfee makes you update your computer’s virus protection.

My next post will focus on the flu itself and how you can keep your family healthy!

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