The 7 Reasons Why You Should Stay Away From The Flu Shot

Before we talk about reasons not to get the flu shot, we need to understand two things: what is the flu, and who should get a flu shot?

What Is the Flu?

What we popularly call the flu is in fact shorthand for the influenza virus. Since a virus causes the flu, it is immune to antibiotics. The only protection against such a virus is an immunization.

Types of Viruses

Viruses fall into two broad categories: those that can easily be cured by the body’s own immune system and those that are problematic. The common cold is a virus, but it is one that is usually easily cured by your body’s immune system. Because there are over 190 identified cold viruses, creating a vaccine against them all is virtually impossible.

The Flu Virus

There are many flu viruses, too, so it is very difficult to create a vaccine that will reach them all. The difference between the flu and cold virus is that certain flu viruses first rear their ugly heads one year ahead of their seasonal worldwide spread. So companies who are developing flu viruses have roughly a year to pick which flu viruses they’re going to create an immunization against.

So why do we try to create flu immunization shots but don’t try to create cold immunization shots? Simple. Colds don’t kill people, at least not to the degree that flu viruses do. And while in a typical season one flu virus will shoot ahead of all others and be the primary culprit behind most flu illnesses, colds can’t be predicted in this way. 

Person getting flu shot

image via Pixabay

How Are Particular Flu Viruses Picked for the Vaccine?

Picking the right flu virus to tackle is the challenge for those tasked with picking the viruses for which the pharmaceutical companies will develop immunization packages, popularly know as flu shots. In effect, they have to guess which viruses that started in the previous year are most likely to spread worldwide.

Most flu viruses start in southern China. People there live in the house with both pigs and fowl, and in very hot and humid environments that facilitate the development and spread of disease. The particular strain of the flu virus that will afflict the whole world each year almost always starts in a pig or a fowl somewhere in South China. The flu virus, which mutates rapidly, goes between animals until it reaches a mutation that can also infect human beings. Once that happens, people start to show symptoms of influenza.

Usually, the initial spread of the virus isn’t large enough to cause a pandemic, so, pharmaceutical companies have some breathing room. But since it takes at least six months to create enough of a flu vaccine to immunize a large population, the makers of the vaccine have to guess which of the new strains of the flu have the best chance of transmitting themselves worldwide.

Sometimes they guess right, but sometimes they don’t. Flu vaccines typically contain antibodies against two or three of the influenza strains that experts agree have the most chance of spreading worldwide. So one reason not to get the flu shot is it’s a crap shoot. It may or may not truly protect you from contracting the flu if scientists guess wrong about which strains will spread. They often guess wrong.

How Many People Die Annually From the Flu?

When considering reasons not to get the flu shot, one should look at some statistics. Estimates by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the United States show the average number of hospitalizations and deaths due to influenza in recent years are as follows:

Young lady with bandana on her face

image via Pexels

Hospitalizations

Hospitalization from flu-related causes averages between 140,000 and 960,000 annually since 2010.

Deaths

Deaths due to influenza has averaged between 12,000 and 79,000 annually since 2010.

What Is the Flu Shot?

Flu shots contain inactivated (killed) flu viruses that don’t cause the flu. These allow the body to create antibodies against the specific viruses in the vaccine. Some people fear that the flu viruses had not been completely killed and believe they are at risk of catching the flu by using this type of vaccine. Even though this is not true, many people shy away from using the vaccine because of this fear.

Live but attenuated flu vaccines are used in nasal spray flu vaccines that are sold under the trade names LAIV or FluMist.

Are There Benefits to Getting the Flu Shot?

When looking at reasons not to get the flu shot, we should start by examining the reasons why some people should get the flu shot.

The most obvious benefit is that the flu shot reduces hospitalizations and saves lives. There is no estimate of how many additional hospitalizations there would have been since 2010 if no flu shot had been available. But it is reasonable to assume that if you remove the effectiveness of the flu shot, the numbers would be increased by the same percentage.

For example, in the 2017-2018 flu season, which was one of the worst in recent years, the effectiveness of the vaccine was estimated at 40 percent. An estimated 80,000 people in the US died. By the numbers then, had there been no flu vaccine available, those numbers would likely have increased by 40 percent. Instead of 80,000 people dying, we may very well have had 112,000 people dying from influenza. 

Person adding medicine in a syringe

image via Pixabay

Are There Valid Reasons Not to Get the Flu Shot?

Absolutely. Here are seven reasons why some people should not get a flu shot:

You Are Under Six Months Old

Young children are usually protected by their mothers’ immunities, particularly when a baby is breast feeding. Moreover, it is difficult to perform vaccine studies on children so young; so the risk of a vaccination is just too great.

You Have Had Previous Allergic Reactions to a Flu Vaccine

If an individual has had an allergic reaction, the chances are high that being exposed to another flu vaccine will bring on the same allergic reaction. There are differences in flu vaccines, however, so you should not assume that one vaccine will give you the same reaction as another. Check with your doctor and pharmacist before deciding.

You Are Allergic to Any Component of the Flu Vaccine

Before getting a flu vaccine, you will be given a questionnaire listing all the potential allergy situations that you may encounter.

You Already Have a Fever

if you have a fever at 101 degrees or higher, avoid taking the flu vaccine until you are better.

Person with fever

image via Pixabay

You Have a Known Egg Allergy

Many flu vaccines are cultured in eggs, so if you have an allergy to eggs, those vaccines may cause an allergic reaction. Before rejecting flu vaccines out of hand, realize that many flu vaccines are now cultured in animal cells. So check with your doctor or pharmacist before automatically rejecting the flu vaccine for this reason.

You Have Had Guillain-Barre Syndrome Within the Last Six Weeks

Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder in which peripheral nerves are damaged and cannot transmit signals efficiently. Because Guillain-Barre syndrome is an autoimmune disorder, and the cause is not known, taking the flu vaccine is contraindicated for such patients.

You Have a Fear of Vaccines

We all need to be comfortable with the health decisions we make. There is a growing movement that proposes that vaccines cause more harm, or may cause harm to some, that outweighs their benefits in preventing not only disease in individuals, but in a community as a whole.

If you have firm convictions, religious or otherwise, that would cause you significant mental trauma if you, a loved one, or a child were to have a vaccine, then you should weigh your mental angst against the possibility of the benefits having such a vaccine may provide.

Protecting the Herd

One of the worst viruses ever to exist was the pandemic known as smallpox. Because of a world-wide program of immunizations against this horrific disease, it was eradicated. The last known case of smallpox was diagnosed in October 1977, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease eradicated in 1980.

image of a virus microscopic

image via Pixabay

When people in their 60s today were children, poliomyelitis caused countless deaths of children while fully or partially paralyzing many more. When Jonas Salk created the first polio vaccine, parents all over the world rejoiced. No longer would their children be subjected to this debilitating and often fatal disease. Today, while polio as a disease has not been eradicated, instances of it among immunized populations are now almost nil.

What would have prevented these two diseases from being eradicated if people had decided not to get their children vaccinated?

To understand how large populations become immune from deadly viruses, one has to understand the concept of herd immunity. For a large population to become immune to a disease, a significant portion of the population needs to be vaccinated against the disease. Children in particular, who are more susceptible to disease, need to get this protection early.

Conclusion

Are there valid reasons not to get the flu shot? Certainly. We’ve examined several them in this article. At the same time, one should consider the effects not only on their own family, but on their community as a whole if they decide that they have reasons not to get the flu shot or not to have their children immunized.

Speak Your Mind

*