The Big Debate Over Getting the Flu Shot

Updated on May 26, 2020
Lorelei Nettles profile image

Lorelei has loved writing since she was a child and enjoys writing from personal knowledge and experience.

Flu Shots

If you have been listening to the news, your doctor, your friends, and maybe even your mother, you have heard a lot about the flu lately. It’s running rampant and now we have Covid-19 to deal with. According to the CDC’s situation update of January 5, 2018, there were 13 reported deaths —and that was only counting children. It seems like everyone would rush to get a flu shot. But no. The debate over the flu shot is ever raging on.

Getting the flu shot has been something I have been vacillating over whether I should be doing or not. I have received one most every year for the last decade, while many of my friends speak of the dangers associated with getting it. The arguments go something like this: “I got the shot once and I got the flu.” Or “Did you know there is mercury in those?” and the general, “Aren’t those supposed to be dangerous?” And finally, “A doctor/nurse said they wouldn’t take it, that’s good enough for me.”

Now, I am not scoffing at these replies…well, not all of them. The “got the flu from the shot” does not really hold water with me when you look at the facts, but the other comments have made me take notice. They are why I have been reading articles and researching many sources for the past few months.

Research and Discovery

The research can get a little confusing. Each side has some pretty good arguments for and against it. Based on the idea that not everyone can be lying, I can tell you a few things I learned.

  1. The flu shot does not cover the common cold or simple flu symptoms. It covers the kind of flu strains that can kill you. For example, The A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. (CDC - Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine)
  2. What many say is the flu is not. Some say they have the flu because they are congested or have a fever, but the flu is much worse than the symptoms of a cold. (WebMD – What is the Flu?)
  3. You cannot get the flu from the shot. The virus is dead and if you do get the flu you either already had it before the shot or you got it before the shot took effect, which can take up to 2 weeks. The shot is also not total protection from all strains of the flu. You can still sometimes get the flu but usually less severely. (Harvard Health Publishing – 10 Flu Myths)
  4. Is there mercury in the flu shot? Well yes and no. Thimerosal is a preservative and is a mercury-containing organic compound (an organomercurial). It is put in to prevent harmful microbes. What is used is equivalent to what you would find in a can of tuna. However, they are using it less and less so it's not always present and if you are worried you can ask for a vaccine without it. (U.S. Food and Drug – Thimerosal and Vaccines)
  5. The flu is said not to be a life-threatening disease. There can be an argument for this statement. If you are healthy you can fight the illness, but if not, it could make you severely ill or kill you. Many feel the risk of the shot outweighs the risk of the flu and do holistic things to avoid or overcome it. (Holistic Squad – Should I Get a Flu Shot?)
  6. Against popular belief, the flu shot does not lower your immune system. The flu shot actually teaches your immune system how to fight off the flu in the future. Getting the flu can do the same thing, so that’s a wash. Another wash is that the flu shot gives you Guillain-Barré syndrome. This can happen to a few people, but then again, so can getting the flu. There are convincing arguments on both sides. (New York Times – Does the Flu Provide Better Immunity Than a Flu Shot?)
  7. Once you get the flu you are immune, right? Nope, it is a viral infection and can mutate each and every year. (Best Health – Influenza)

So, what’s my take away? At least for now, I will continue to get the flu shot. If later new research arises, I might be more convinced not to get it, but after a decade of not getting the flu in any form, I think I will stick with the shot. I also have a compromised immune system due to medication I take, so in my opinion, it makes sense for me. However, I do understand why others choose not to.

As I said, the research is vast and, at times, contradictory. Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what works best for them. Hopefully, I have summed up some of the confusion for you here, but if you are like me and are searching for answers, this may just be the beginning.

What About COVID-19 Vaccines?

Since the rise of COVID-19, there have been even more concerns about whether people should get a vaccination each year. One side states that those who refuse are risking not only their lives, but also the lives of those around them. The other side stands as they did with the flu shot: they do not want to take it. You would think the debate would stop after the stay-at-home orders and financial shutdown, but it has not. While some may have changed their minds or decided they would take just that one vaccine, others are adamant that they will not.

Again, it is each person's choice. However, I believe if you refuse to take a vaccine for either the flu, and now COVID-19, you must act responsibly and remove yourself from situations where you might risk contracting/spreading the infection—in particular, avoiding contact with high-risk individuals. Unfortunately, it has been proven that both viruses can be transferred before symptoms appear; within one day for most cases of influenza and up to two weeks for COVID-19. (World Health Organization)

If you decide to take the vaccines, then educate yourself on both your options and the facts. There is a lot of misguided and unproven information out there. Look at various sources and make sure the information is reliable and not just hearsay. As I mentioned above, not everyone needs a vaccine. Healthy children and adults can often fight off a virus on their own, but as we have learned that is not true of all viruses.

While I am pro-vaccination for myself, I am not sure I will take the COVID-19 vaccine when it comes. I also do not believe it is for everyone, and I do not agree that any government should force such things on anyone. What we put in our bodies needs to remain our individual choice.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2018 Lorelei Nettles

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