Flu Shots: The Pros and Cons
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Supporters say that flu shots can greatly lower your chance of getting the flu. The main goal of the influenza vaccine is not to prevent the flu, but to prevent the complications of the flu. If the strains in the shot match the virus you are exposted to, it can prevent disease completely in healthy adults with a robust immune system. But when given to older persons and those with frail immune systems, its principle goal is to reduce severity of symptoms and help prevent complications of the flu, namely pneumonia, hospitalization and death for those who do get the flu.
- The best time to get the shot is from the middle of October to the middle of November, because most people get the flu in the winter. The shot can't cause the flu. But you may feel sore or weak or have a fever for a few days.
- Flu shots are strongly recommended for people 65 or older, nursing home patients, people over 6 months old with health problems, such as asthma, or with long-term diseases, such as HIV or heart disease; children or teen-agers who must often take aspirin; and people who are often around older people or those with health problems.
Talk to your doctor before getting a flu shot if you have certain allergies (especially to eggs), have an illness, such as pneumonia, have a high fever or are pregnant.
However, it is important to realize that the flu shot does not typically confer immunity in the same way other vaccines do. The influenza virus is a wily virus, which is constantly changing, unlike others such as polio or measles which are far more stable. Developing a vaccine for the flu, therefore, is chasing a moving target. Each year's formulation represents the experts' best guess as to what will work.
Cons & Potential Risks:
The effectiveness of flu shots has been called into question by several studies ...
- A study published in the British Medical Journal (www.bmj.com) concluded that the effectiveness of annual flu shots has been exaggerated, and that in reality they have little or no effect on influenza campaign - namely they do not reduce the number of hospital stays, time off work and death from the flu / influenza and its complications.
- Another study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine also could not find support for the use of flu vaccine to prevent deaths in the elderly. The report states that even though immunization rates in people over 65 have increased drastically in the past 20 years, there has not been a consequent decline in flu-related deaths.
- Another study published in the Lancet (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) found that influenza vaccination did not reduce risk of pneumonia in older people. Vaccination coverage among the elderly increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent now, yet there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza or pneumonia.
- A systematic review of 51 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2006 involved 260,000 children, age 6 to 23 months. No evidence was found that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo in children.
Risks Associated With Flu Shots:
- Emerging evidence suggests that flu shots cause Alzheimer’s disease, most likely as a result of combining mercury with aluminum and formaldehyde.
- Mercury in vaccines has also been shown to be a contributing factor in autism. Mercury is a potent neurotoxin. Curiously, the government warns that compact fluorescent lights pose a real health hazard to women and children due to their mercury content. However, they deem mercury in dental fillings and vaccines safe, which doesn't make sense.
- Adverse reactions to the flu vaccine include joint inflammation and arthritis, anaphylactic shock (and other life-threatening allergic reactions), Guillain-Barré syndrome (a paralytic autoimmune disease) and death.
- The FDA alerted doctors and parents to watch for signs of bizarre behavior in children treated with Tamiflu. Tamiflu is approved for treatment of uncomplicated influenza A and B in children 1 year of age or older, as well as for prevention of influenza in people 13 years or older. This drug is linked to 12 deaths in Japanese children since 2000. Click here for more info
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