Like many other Penn State students, I am anxiously awaiting the dreaded flu season. Class attendance thins, available UHS appointments are few and far between, and the close quarters atmosphere of fraternity basements becomes increasingly daunting. Last year, in order to combat this season of sickness, I, as per usual in my household, got my flu shot. Nevertheless, I got sick.
Most of the articles addressed the first question that comes to some people’s minds as they prepare to get the shot, “Injecting me WITH the flu? Won’t that just make me sick?” The answer to that is very simply – no. Vaccines in general are made with inactive forms of the virus you’re protecting yourself from, so at most you’ll have a sore arm and occasionally a low-grade fever. Another big question that many people, including myself, have asked is, “Why do I have to get the flu shot every year?” I found that the answer to that is a little more complicated. Basically, the type of flu that appears every year changes and evolves. The flu is unpredictable and so is the person receiving the shot’s reaction to the vaccine. Scientists every year to put forth their best possible guess as to what strand of flu will appear, and base the vaccine around that.
So I wondered, if every year the vaccine is basically the equivalent of an educated guess, is it really worth it? The next article I read, from Dr. Perl Mutter, thinks not. His blog lists some statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s website, which says that the flu shot was only 23% effective in the 2014-2015 year. Dr. Mutter believes that people should not be getting flu shots and that the medical community is advertising lies. I guess I was part of that unlucky 77% last year, but the CDC has a different story when it comes to the flu shot.
Although according to Dr. Mutter the flu shot is only 23% effective, the CDC believes that there is a larger component to the flu shot. Among the overall population, the vaccine manages to reduce overall sickness by 50-60%, which is a much more optimistic number. The point of the flu shot, and every other vaccine you receive, isn’t just to keep you healthy, but it’s to keep others who may be at a greater risk healthy. This shot may not work for you personally, but it helps to keep the population as a whole satisfied and smiling.
This information inspired me to continue receiving my yearly flu shot, and I hope you all do the same. It may seem useless to you, but from a larger perspective, this shot and all other vaccines you may get keep our world healthy. If the opportunity is out there, why not take it? (Vaccination your children as well!)
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