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Friday, October 31st, 2014

Flu-Shot Season Doesn't Mean You Have to Get a Flu Shot

Flu-shot season is drawing to a close and if you haven’t gotten one yet you might be wondering if it’s worth it. While United States health experts are campaigning for 80 percent of the population to get annual flu shots by the year 2020; what does that mean for you? With all the questions regarding the effectiveness of vaccines, it can be hard to determine if the flu shot is right for you.

Some people remain skeptical about vaccines for several reasons. First, unlike any other vaccine, the flu shot is recommended yearly; which means big profit for manufacturers who pump out new batches year after year.

Next, in a move that’s practically unheard of in the medical field, scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released findings that could put a big damper on the vaccine manufacturers business. In it, scientists suggest that  influenza vaccinations provide limited protection against the flu virus for healthy young and middle-age adults, and may provide even less protection for those 65 and older. Those findings are especially disturbing given that adults 65 and older are most likely to experience fatality related to flu virus complications.

Scientists found that the recommendation for yearly flu shots were based on outdated or faulty reports. “We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, as well as its Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance. “It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”

flu seasonGreat! This news means no flu vaccine, right? Well, not so fast. Even though researchers and scientists say the vaccine can be, and often is, overpromoted; that doesn’t mean it is useless. Getting a flu shot can be helpful for a lot of people, especially babies. Assess your current vaccination pattern to decide if getting the flu shot is right for you. If you’ve remained vaccine free for years and done well and you are comfortable foregoing the shot this year, then continue pattern. If you always get a flu shot and you want to continue, then do so as well.

One thing to remember is that much of the research about the flu virus relies heavily on population-based studies; i.e. studies from everyday people who do and/or do not visit the doctor. Many flu virus studies aren’t conducted in a lab in a controlled environment. For example, older patients who do not get flu shots may be more prone to experience side effects of the virus because of previous poor health. Contributing factors including your current health and management of pre-existing conditions are key to determining whether not a flu shot is for you.

Finally, common sense tactics such as washing your hands frequently and coughing into your sleeve and not your hand can help you avoid getting sick this flu season as well.

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