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Flu Shots: What's Routine for Some Is Off-Limits for Others

Seems like during influenza season, folks are divided into those who do — and those who do not — get vaccinated.

Ask anyone if they have gotten a flu shot and you are sure to get a spirited answer. It's never a simple "no" or "yes."

It's often, "we don't do flu shots," "yes, I do it every year," "I've been meaning to" or "doesn't the flu shot sometimes give you the flu?"

This is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Flu season begins in October and most people are .

I have always been an advocate for each member of my family getting one — three out of four of us have asthma. And it is a challenge to persuade a 8- an 14-year-old boys to willingly get a needle in their arm. Funny thing is, the younger one is much more of a trooper. He steels himself. He doesn't cry. The 14-year-old? ... not sayin'.

My husband won't go out of his way to get one, but if he's at the doctor's already, he bites the bullet.

This year, I admit, I have been remiss in my motherly vaccine duties. A little voice in my head, the one that dutifully takes out and pays for insurance and saves money for "just in case" is whispering just one word ... 'hubris.'

(Sorry. I was an English major).

According to Faces of Influenza, it is recommended that the following people get a flu shot annually.

  • People 50 years of age and older
  • Children 6 months to 18 years of age
  • Pregnant women
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease and diabetes
  • Residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes

Those who don't cite a plethora of reasons — procrastination, the difficulty of scheduling individual doctor and pediatrician appointments, concerns about side effects, and simply, "not gettin' one."

East Haddam-Haddam Patch Editor Wendy Vincent lists several reasons why her family forgoes the shot.

"The flu vaccine is determined on the 'best guess' for what strain the flu is going to be for the year," Vincent says she believes. "If the guess is wrong, the vaccine becomes irrelevant and you get sick anyway.

"The flu vaccine is preserved with thimerosal, a form of mercury," Vincent says.

Find out what the CDC says about thimerosal here.

"The 'live' virus is used in the flu vaccine, which is why a lot of people get 'sick' right after having it. I don't think injecting the live virus in my body is a good idea, especially since I have never had the flu."

However, according to the CDC, "the flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm."

The CDC lists several reasons why one might appear to get the flu after being injected with a shot. Among them:

  1. People may be exposed to an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated.
  2. People may become ill from other (non-flu) viruses that circulate during the flu season, which can also cause flu-like symptoms (such as rhinovirus).
  3. A person may be exposed to an influenza virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Connecticut is in the "sporatic" category right now. That's on a scale of no report, no activity, sporatic, local, regional and widespread.

For those who do want to get vaccinated, and prefer the quick-and-dirty method, the Mass Dispensing Area 36, which serves Cromwell, Durham, Middlefield and the City of Middletown, is offering its final of six free clinics Dec. 14 at the South Fire District Firehouse, 445 Randolph Roadd, Middletown, from 12-8 p.m.

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Ebben Flow December 07, 2011 at 08:43 PM
"The flu vaccine is determined on the 'best guess' for what strain the flu is going to be for the year," Vincent says. "If the guess is wrong, the vaccine becomes irrelevant and you get sick anyway." Before there was a flu vaccine, the flu killed over 500k people every year in the US. Obviously it has a pretty good track record of being useful. "The flu vaccine is preserved with thimerisal, a form of mercury," Vincent explains." You get more mercury from breathing the air, due to coal burning power plants. The nasal version does not contain any thimerisal, and neither do single use shots. The preservative is only needed in multishot vials. "The 'live' virus is used in the flu vaccine, which is why a lot of people get 'sick' right after having it. I don't think injecting the live virus in my body is a good idea, especially since I have never had the flu" Simply incorrect the DEAD virus is in the vaccine. You cannot get the flu from the shot.
Ebben Flow December 07, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Further on the DEAD virus... The way the vaccine works is it uses dead virus to trick your body's own immune system into creating antibodies that fight the flu. During the process of making those antibodies, your body reacts much in the way it reacts to an infection. You may have a slightly elevated temp for a day or two. That is not the flu at all. If you had the flu you would have trouble getting out of bed. It's a very serious and severe illness.
Cassandra Day (Editor) December 07, 2011 at 09:52 PM
Thank you, Ebben. I have amended the article with information obtained from the CDC website.

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