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Flu shot frenzy: are they worth a shot?

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A more appropriate title would have been “Everything I could find out about flu shots based on secondary research”…

Not so spectacular…

As the cold weather rolls in, flu shot wounds are quickly becoming the latest must-have upper-arm accessory. Walk into any pharmacy and more than likely you will be able to pay a few dollars for the privilege before sitting quietly for 10 minutes to ensure you don’t burst into flames, and then depart feeling invincible and flu-proof. But with mass-hysteria usually comes a dash of proof, and a flood of hype (Exhibit A: PowerBalance Bands).

According to the International Medical Council on Vaccination, the former Chief Vaccine Officer at the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) stated in 2013 that “There is no evidence that any influenza vaccine thus far developed is effective in preventing or mitigating any attack of influenza.” In fact, one study conducted on children in 2012 (I’m guessing they signed waivers) suggested that the flu shot may cause other non-influenza respiratory virus infections by immobilising the bodies immune system temporarily.

Further, in 2013 the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy out of the University of Minnesota found that flu vaccine effectiveness may be as low as 56% (lower in over 65’s), and those figures are non conclusive given how many variables are at play in those who remain healthy.

In 2014, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) claimed the flu vaccine was 70-90% effective. In 2016, they scaled that back to “about 50-60%”.

Other fun flu shot facts:

  • Selected virus strains are grown in live hen’s eggs before being extracted, purified, killed, broken down into components and then mixed to create the vaccine (for this reason, those with egg allergies and vegans may want to seek advice before having the shot).
  • Whilst the vaccine basically entails injecting the host with a strain of the flu, it is usually only minimal – enough for the immune system to build resilience.
  • The 2016 “super vaccine” shot is so called because quadrivalent, or four-strain vaccine includes an additional “B” strain known as the “Brisbane strain”, alongside the Phuket (B), Hong Kong (A) and California (A) strains. Strains are named for the locations in which they were first isolated (totally not making this up).
  • The flu shot won’t help with allergies, so you will still need to get rid of your cat.
  • There’s no certainty that the “super vaccine” will actually be effective against the influenza strains that you may be exposed to.

[Source: http://www.smh.com.au/national/health/flu-vaccines-what-you-need-to-know-20160411-go3p9a.html]

So no, probably not worth it

If you are someone who is predictably wiped out each flu season, then yes, it may be worth considering, but even so, there is no assurance that it will work. What is also worth noting is that it is difficult to predict how the vaccine will respond to other medications that you may be taking.

The best defense against the flu (and everything in general) is good health and a strong immune system. Load up on green veggies, try to steer clear of processed foods, and foods high in evil fats, drink a sensible amount of water, and continue to read high quality independent blogs written by unusual blokes who aren’t sure if they have an audience or are writing for themselves. The flu shot may only cost a few dollars, but the findings suggest that unless you are hyper-prone to influenza, you are better off spending your money on broccoli and quality sports apparel.

UNITEDFlu shot frenzy: are they worth a shot?

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