Flu Shot: Friend or Foe?

For some time now, the great flu shot controversy has raged on. Do the shot benefits outweigh its risks?

It’s certainly a hot-button topic amongst moms who face the hard-pressed dilemma of making the right decision for their little ones’ safety. Some moms are eager to take any avenue to protect their children against the flu, while others are weary of the shots potentially harmful side effects.

On February 24, 2010, vaccine experts voted that everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year. Supporters argue that the flu shot protects those at high-risk, and say not getting the vaccination is more dangerous than actually getting it.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that the following groups get vaccinated, either because they’re at high-risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high-risk for developing flu-related complications:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

Why are people advising against it?

Opponents argue that the shot only protects against certain strains of the virus, and say the vaccination has potentially dangerous side effects, including serious allergic reactions. Many opponents are concerned about the chemicals and preservatives found in the shots.

Here are the concerns:

  • The flu shot contains a small amount of mercury, which can be harmful to the brain.  A study has shown that if an individual has had five consecutive flu shots, his or her chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease are 10 times higher.
  • The shot can only protect against certain flu strains. Most flu vaccines contain only three strains, yet a person will more than likely be exposed to additional strains, or strains mutated from what he or she has been vaccinated for. The difficulty in keeping up with the constantly-mutating strains is obvious—Remember the Swine flu (aka H1N1) freak out?
  • The flu shot can contain traces of leukemia and cancer viruses that can not be entirely removed.
  • The flu shot can also contain traces of a pork product, which many people who do not consume pork for health or religious reasons are unaware of.

Those against the shot also point out the extremely poor track record the vaccine has had in predicting which viruses will infect communities. To this point the CDC claims that the influenza vaccine is “approximately 70% effective in preventing influenza in “healthy persons less than 65 years of age” if “there is a good match between vaccine and circulating viruses.”

Considering that more than 90% of pneumonia and influenza deaths occur in persons 65 years of age or older, but that about 65% of all deaths (from any cause) occur in this age group anyway, it is nearly impossible to prove if flu shots significantly increase life expectancy in the elderly.

What do you think? Will you and your child be vaccinated this season?

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