Editor's note: The following originally appeared as a "Health Happenings" column on Milford Patch.
"What are your thoughts on the flu vaccine?" is a question I am asked daily.
It truly comes down to informed consent and personal philosophy. We live in a country with much propaganda for vaccines. I was checking out at Rite Aid this week and I heard the cashiers asking all the customers if they had received the flu shot yet. If someone responded with “No,” the employee would say “our pharmacy has them and it is free with your insurance, you really need to get one so you won’t get the flu.” … and a column was born.
At this time of year everyone in the family over 6 months old is encouraged to have the influenza vaccine. This recommendation is about 12 years old. Before then, only those 65 and over and very ill people were encouraged to be vaccinated. For most people who work in the medical field this yearly vaccine is mandated.
The seasonal influenza causes a fever, all over body and eye pain, fatigue, cough and runny nose. It does not cause stomach symptoms (such as vomiting or diarrhea). After a lot of research I was disappointed by the varying U.S. death statistics from the seasonal influenza: each year somewhere between 3,000 and 40,000 people of the 311 million living in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Wow! That is a wide ranging statistic.
Advocates for the flu vaccine often suggest that without a flu vaccine you are putting yourself, your family, friends and colleagues at risk. This makes some sense, however opponents would say research hasn’t completely supported this claim.
- Is created by scientists using research aimed toward the expected year’s seasonal strain
- Introduces a small amount of the flu into our bodies with the expectation that our immune system would better be able to fight the virus if one was exposed
- Injection is approved for ages 6 months and up, the Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine (LAIV) nasal spray for ages 2-49 and non-pregnant
- May contain Thimerosal; The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved different formulations of the seasosal flu vaccine for 2013 including multi-dose and single-dose units. Some of the vaccine produced in multi-dose vials contains Thimerosal. The LAIV does not contain Thimerosal (CDC).
The vaccine does NOT:
- Prevent a person from getting a flu
Opponents of vaccines often say the vaccine “makes them get sick." Although many resources will defend the vaccine stating it can’t cause the flu, the concept that a person gets sick after a vaccine is possible. The physiology behind this is secondary from the immune system working so hard to fight the new foreign ‘invader,' it may have less power to take care of other viruses such as the common cold, stomach or shingles virus, etc...
Other opponents reject vaccines due to the fear of overworking the immune system and of creating ‘super-viruses.' Lastly, there is the philosophy that if the vaccines do work as well as the CDC and vaccine companies state, how is not getting the vaccine putting other people at risk?
According to the CDC, there are some people who should not get a flu vaccine. These include:
- People who have an allergy to chicken eggs
- People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination
- Children younger than 6 months of age
- People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever
- People with a history of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (a severe paralytic illness, also called GBS) that occurred after receiving influenza vaccine and who are not at risk for severe illness from influenza should generally not receive vaccine
Whether you already have, plan to or won’t get the flu vaccine, there are ways to support the body to work optimally for the hurdles for the winter immune system.
- Blast the body with antioxidants; more veggies than fruit. Try for 7-8 a day and green is best. If you won’t eat them swallow them in a supplement format. My favorite is Juice Plus because it is only dehydrated fruits and veggies — nothing else — and they have chewable or pills.
- Get sleep! The average American adult sleeps less than 7 hours a night (especially during this crazy holiday season). Loss of sleep crushes the immune system.
- Drink Water! Yes, I know some of you don’t like water, but it is imperative for your body to work well and to flush viruses and toxins from the body – plus being sick doesn’t 'taste' good either. Add slices of lemon, lime or oranges for a little flavor.
- Decrease sugar and complex carbohydrates. Studies have shown that the body's immune response slows down up to 5 hours after ingestion.
- Add daily Curcumin (also known as turmeric) and Vitamin D to your supplement regimen.
- Regular chiropractic care will help to boost immune systems.
If you or someone you know has had a reaction to a vaccine; it should be reported.