The Flu Vaccine and the Myths Surrounding It
As the cold weather arrives, millions of Americans plan their annual trek to the doctor’s office for an immunization that protects against certain strands of the flu, or influenza. But is it really necessary? As controversial a topic as the flu vaccine is, one has to ask if the benefits of receiving a flu vaccine outweigh the risks? Let’s find out.
Why Get Vaccinated?
The rationale behind getting vaccinated is to protect against a contagious disease that easily spreads by coughing, sneezing and close contact. Anyone can get the flu, however, children are considered to have among the highest risk.
How sick one gets from the flu varies by the person infected. That is why it is especially important that elderly people, children, pregnant women and those with certain health conditions be immunized each year.
Is the Flu Vaccine Dangerous?
A highly debated topic, some people withhold getting a flu vaccine because they heard that it contains dangerous ingredients such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze. Mercury can be found in many forms, including thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative that has been used for decades. Despite research supporting the safety of thimerosal when used in low levels, in 2001 it was removed from all vaccines given to children with the exception of the inactivated flu vaccine in multi-dose vials. Single-dose units of the vaccine do not contain thimerosal. This includes both the live-attenuated vaccine (nasal spray version) and single-dose vials of the inactivated vaccine (injected version). We offer both the single and multi-dose vials at our office.
The truth is, the ingredients in flu shots are safe, however people who have allergies to ingredients such as gelatin, should avoid vaccines that contain this ingredient. It is also very important to understand that the flu kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year. According to the CDC, an average of 20,000 children younger than 5 years of age are hospitalized because of flu-related complications each year. The flu combined with pneumonia is the eighth leading cause of death among all Americans and the seventh leading cause of death among Americans over the age of 65.
The flu vaccine is recommended for all children aged 6 months and older. It not only helps protect against getting the flu, it also helps prevent the spreading of the flu. If your child hasn’t had their flu vaccine yet, it is not too late. Flu activity tends to peak in January and February and can last until May. Give us a call to schedule an appointment today.
If you are still not sure of your stance on vaccines, here are three links to studies you can read: