Here we go again… flu shot mania! We are about to get pounded with hype surrounding this year’s flu shot. There will be television and radio ads, news stories, and enough signs outside the local pharmacies that you might think the flu shot is running for mayor.
I often get asked what I think of the flu shot, and there is a lot of controversy surrounding it, so I figured I’d share my thoughts with you. It is beyond my scope of practice to tell you to either get the shot or not get the shot. So I am not telling you what to do, but simply sharing with you a couple of reasons why I have decided not to get the flu shot.
The first, and most important, reason I will not get the flu vaccine is the questionable ingredients in these shots. Many still contain thimerosal (mercury), which is a known neurotoxin and has been pulled out of many other vaccines due to the health concerns surrounding it. Many also contain formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, which means it has been shown to cause cancer in humans. Other questionable ingredients are canine (dog) kidney cell proteins and DNA, monosodium glutamate (MSG), gelatin, antibiotics, egg proteins, and more. (To see all vaccine ingredients as listed on the CDC’s website, you can click here.)
A second reason I do not get the flu vaccine is because of questions surrounding its effectiveness. There are many strains of the flu, and the vaccine only contains three to four strains. If the prominent strain of flu during any particular year is different from that in the shot, you will not be protected. According to the CDC, the flu shot has only been above 50% effective three times in the past ten years. The effectiveness of last season’s vaccine was 29%, the second lowest since 2011. The vaccine for the 2014-15 flu season was only 19% effective. Yikes! (This information can be seen on the CDC’s website; click here to be directed to it.) According to a study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, giving young children flu shots appeared to have no impact on flu-related doctor visits or hospitalizations during two recent flu seasons.
I strongly believe that the hype around the flu and the flu shot is blown way out of proportion and grossly misguided. I personally do not fear the flu. I put all of my emphasis on building up my health so that I am strong enough to resist the flu virus. This entails eating well, exercising regularly, managing my stress levels, and making a strong effort to get ample rest.
You will read articles, hear news stories, and likely have your doctor tell you “the best thing you can do to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot.” Even if you feel that the flu shot is a very good thing, how can you think that it is “the best” thing? I would never put more faith in the flu shot than in the power of my own inborn, innate immune system that’s purpose is to work twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to fight off bacteria and viruses. Living a healthy lifestyle, which bolsters and maximizes this immune function, has to be the best thing you can do to prevent the flu. Just think about that for a minute.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website also says that getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu. It also recommends as a second line of defense antiviral drugs. The pharmaceutical industry has everyone believing that medicine is the answer. (There will be millions of doses of the vaccine produced this year. They gotta sell this stuff!) I find it odd, and upsetting, that the first two recommendations by the CDC are medicine. It then recommends “good health habits.” Ah, finally, I thought as I read on, here comes some true health recommendations. Nope! It recommends covering your cough and to frequently wash your hands with soap. Not a single word about eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and limiting sugar intake, not a word about regular exercise, and nothing regarding stress management. So disappointing!
If I have information convincing me that the benefits of the flu vaccine outweigh the risks, or that it is at least a viable way to help prevent the flu, I will get it tomorrow. Until then, I choose not to get it. I’m not telling you not to get it, but simply sharing information and encouraging you to think about your choices. And most people are not given all the information and are surprised to find out the dismal stats of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine and even more surprised to find out what the ingredients are in these shots.
I have no vested interest in the flu vaccine. Whether you get it or you don’t is your choice. I just know that I want as much information as possible before making any choice, especially with decisions as important as what gets put into my body or my children’s bodies.