Every year when the leaves start to fall, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies, and pharmaceutical companies begin the flu vaccine campaign. There are a couple of reasons they feel the need to do so;
1) Influenza viruses are highly infectious changelings, altering their composition annually as they prepare to invade their human hosts, and…
2) an alarming opposition to conventional medical wisdom (read: vaccinations) in recent years has prompted the medical community to press the issue.
According to the CDC, influenza accounts for more than half a million fatalities worldwide every year. In the US alone, an average of 36,000 people die from flu-related complications like pneumonia or kidney failure, overwhelmingly affecting the very young and very old. Some years, when exceptionally virulent strains make the rounds, the death toll climbs much higher. The only reliable protection against influenza is vaccination. Despite this fundamental fact, people continue to develop unfounded theories for why they shouldn’t have themselves and their children vaccinated.
Here are a few basic flu shot myths debunked:
I had a flu shot before, so I don’t need another
Unlike other microorganisms, influenza viruses recombine with each other’s RNA during host cell infection, causing new strains with different antibody requirements every season. Last year’s flu shot may help protect you a little, but may not completely neutralize a new flu strain in time.
I always get the flu from the shot
You don’t, it just feels that way for a couple of days. Some people produce a strong immune response to the flu vaccine, causing chills, fever, and body aches, but these short-lived symptoms do not represent an actual infection, and should subside quickly.
The vaccine is full of mercury
Some controversy has surrounded the preservative thimerosal, a mercury-containing compound popular for protecting multi-dose vials of vaccine from contamination. For perspective, one vaccine contains about the same amount of mercury as a can of tuna. Although no link to autism or any other disorder has been connected to low-level mercury exposure, there are alternatives available upon request.
My doctor / pharmacist just wants to make money
Big myth-buster; despite the skeptics, doctors are not coin-operated! Your doctor makes zero profit from any medication that he/she prescribes, including vaccinations for you or your kids. While pharmaceutical companies are for-profit entities, there is no rule that says that they can’t make money saving your life or protecting your health. On an hourly basis, a dizzying amount of money passes through the network of healthcare entities that supply our enormous demand for high-quality care, but that will never negate the fact that the foundation of medicine is altruistic care, motivated by the desire to cure.
My body can do the same job without the vaccine.
Actually, you’re right. The vaccine is just using your body’s machinery to achieve the same result, minus the mortal threat. Influenza is particularly dangerous not so much because the organism is powerful, but that is has unique potential to provoke your immune system to respond in such a way that it threatens your entire body. By using a dead version of the flu virus to produce a smaller immune response, your body is tricked into making the necessary antibodies before it’s exposed to the real enemy. Yeah, you can do it naturally, but you’re playing a game of Russian roulette that way.