Sept. 17, 2013 — It’s that time of year when I am once again forced to make a decision about whether to get my children and myself a flu shot. Even the Center for Disease Control has questioned its effectiveness and suggest we may get just as sick whether or not we get the shot. So, every year I hesitate and ask myself the same question — do we really need to do that again this year? Is it worth the possible side effects and exposing my children to questionable ingredients like formaldehyde?
It seems like a simple question, but it’s not. Getting my children their flu shots is one of the most dreaded days of the year, for all of us. They hate it. I hate it. I’m not going to embarrass them by telling you why we all hate it so much but suffice it to say more than one of us ends up crying. Nevertheless, due to a bout of pneumonia at 1-1/2 years old, a few common allergies and minor asthma, every year I end up conceding as it is better to be safe than sorry. Right?
The difference this year is that they are growing or have grown out of their allergies and asthma occurrences are few and far between. So, once again, I ask myself if we need to go through all the drama and trauma again this year. Maybe we can get away with just the nasal mist instead of the terrifying needle. Is it really worth it since the flu shot is not even proven to prevent the flu?
Part of the effectiveness problem stems from the fact that there is no single virus that causes the flu and therefore there is no one flu vaccine that protects against all of the viruses. Annual flu vaccines are formulated based on the flu strain(s) that are expected to be most common and most serious in any given year. But that doesn’t mean it will protect my babies from a deadly flu.
And here’s the rub — Flu viruses change over time and it also takes time to develop a vaccine … so, even if you get a flu shot which was designed to fight the prevalent strain, you may not be completely protected from it. Once again, I ask myself whether it’s worth it.
And, did you know that if you’re exposed to the virus too soon after you receive the shot (within two weeks), your body may not have had time to develop antibodies in order to fight it? Also, if too much time elapses between when you were inoculated and when you are exposed to the virus, you may not be protected because the vaccination loses effectiveness over time.
Similarly, the flu shot may not protect you if your body doesn’t develop enough of a response or enough antibodies, is overwhelmed by high levels of exposure or doesn’t recognize the virus to which you’re exposed. That’s a lot of ifs! A nurse friend of mine says she doesn’t bother getting a flu shot because of these issues.
However, one positive is the CDC says that even when the virus in the vaccine and predominate flu virus are not closely matched, “the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different, but related strains of influenza viruses.”
Sure, children in general are exposed to tons of germs on a daily basis and share disgusting things between each other, which puts them at high risk. On the other hand, germs can be good things. In my opinion, the vaccine may not be necessary for otherwise healthy people, but if you’re a caregiver to a sensitive population (like children), which I am, then the flu shot could protect you from giving it to them. So, I guess I just answered my own question. Thanks for helping me sort that out. Until next year …
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