(Flu) Shot in the Dark

Every year when winter rolls around, doctors avidly promote the necessity of a flu vaccine. Runny noses and colds are prescribed appointments to get an annual flu shot. Despite their widespread promotion amongst doctors, flu vaccines are not too popular in America. In 2015, vaccines were administered to only 47% of adults, and about 75% of children over ages of 2. Even during “Swine ‘09”, the swine flu epidemic only probed about 40% of the population to bother getting the vaccination. (National Vaccine Info Center) 

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The type of flu virus included in the vaccinations vary year to year. Doctors attempt to predict the type of influenza that will be circulating the community every upcoming flu season and devise a vaccine to reduce the risk of infection. Standard vaccine protocol includes injecting a person with a dead or weak version of the disease so the body can manufacture antibodies to kill the active virus. Certain factors play into how well the body reacts to the injection such as the age and health of the patient and the compatibility of the flu type in the shot and the flu type actually circulating. Even if doctors’ predictions on which strain of influenza would hit a certain year were spot on, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies within the population.

The Center for Disease Control or CDC gives statistical evaluations of the vaccination every year after gauging the public’s response.  In 2013, 57,000 deaths were reported from “influenza or pneumonia related causes”. The organization also reports that at least 37,000 were hospitalized due to severe influenza cases. Up to date flu vaccinations will reduce the public’s susceptibility to infection by at least 60%. The CDC measures this effectiveness in a point estimate or confidence interval meaning if 100 trials were conducted, 60 would not be afflicted by the flu. This success rate has reduced children’s hospitalization visits by 74% and adult’s visits by 57%.

Flu vaccines appear to be the perfect solution, so why do people tend to shy away from getting them? Dr. Kelly Brogan of the International Medical Council on Vaccination argues the ineffectiveness of the shots and reckless government involvement in health. She claims that unbiased scientists and researchers have uncovered that the flu vaccine does little to nothing in ways of preventing the virus. She claims there is no possible medical intervention that is acceptable and works for everyone. Her argument that mass medication is faulty is backed by the varying CDC statistics. If administered correctly, the flu vaccine only reduces risk of infection by 50-60%. Brogan believes this to be too small a success rate to be prescribing to everyone with a runny nose and fever. Elderly people with a weaker immune systems have little to no response to the flu vaccine; thus, taking the vaccine may be unnecessary for that entire segment of the population.

Several anecdotes travel around the medical community such as “the year I got my flu shot was the only year I ever got sick.” Meanwhile, doctor’s offices are plastered with posters and flyers boasting about the benefits of the vaccine. Despite the controversy, getting the flu shot yearly is statistically smarter in preventing illness. However, buy some tissues just in case because the chances of a person still getting the flu are pretty high.

 

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1 thought on “(Flu) Shot in the Dark

  1. Daniel J Lehecka

    I think that you’re underestimating just how much a 50-60% reduced chance to get the flu is. The cost of getting the vaccine is very low, and there really aren’t many negative side effects to getting it. As such, not getting the vaccine only makes sense if it is a true burden to get it. Also, saying that it’s a relatively low percentage of people that get it doesn’t make a ton of sense. Nearly half of all adults and three quarters of children is a very significant portion of the population. If half of the people in the country continue to get the shot, there very well might be a change that they are observing. Also, reducing hospital rates by 60% for flu patients is something massively important. So at the end of the day with such a little cost and a high reward, why skip on the shot?

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