November 4, 2015

Why I Swore Off Flu Shots (And Why I Was Wrong)

Little girl at the doctor's.

“Is a flu shot worth it?”

If you had asked me this question when I was still in college, my answer would probably surprise you.

Thinking I was protecting myself against the year’s impending flu season, I decided to get the vaccine. Shortly after, I ended up in the emergency room, where I vowed I would never get another one. To this day, I don’t know what caused the reaction, and the situation certainly gave me a scare.

But technology changes, and year after year, research showed the benefits of getting a flu shot. Many years later, I thought with all the medical improvements that have occurred, I should give it another “shot.”

So I did. Despite my previous negative experience, I haven’t had a problem with the vaccination since then. In fact, I rest a little easier knowing that I have done what I can to protect myself and my family from the flu. I know it isn’t 100 percent certain to work, but I like my odds better with the flu shot, and that’s really what it’s all about. I feel that I am maximizing my odds to avoid the virus.

I recognize this is an individual choice–one many of us grapple with–but if you have kids or if you are regularly around seniors, you might want to consider getting a flu shot for their health, as well.

So what are the pros and cons of receiving a flu vaccine?

If you visit, the benefits of a flu shot are clearly listed. The website states:

“Everyone 6 months of age and older should get the flu vaccine.”

It’s hard to get much more cut-and-dry than that! However, it is always wise to research your decision, especially one that could greatly impact your health, so, while the official statement from sounds enticing, let’s take a deeper look at what the flu vaccine can do for you.

First, and most importantly, a flu vaccine will typically reduce your risk of getting the flu. If you still get it, however, claims that, with a vaccine, you will become “60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu by a healthcare provider.” So, even if you still get the flu after a vaccination, you should feel better sooner and need less time off work than if you skipped out on the flu shot.

Furthermore, the flu can have a more serious impact on a wide spectrum of individuals. According to the Mayo clinic, the flu can cause serious complications for pregnant women, older adults, young children, or people with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, cancer, diabetes, or obesity. If you fall under one or more of these categories, the flu vaccine could be particularly vital for you!

Simply put, the flu vaccine tips the scale in your favor. If you do still get the flu, the vaccine will help to reduce its effects.

There are concerns about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative found in flu shots, and I agree that this is something we need to be conscious of. However, there is a large body of scientific evidence which says thimerosal is safe. In low doses, as is the case with a flu shot, thimerosal typically causes minor redness or swelling at the injection site at worst.

Any time it comes to needles and medicine, I understand that we may get a little apprehensive. In the case of a flu shot, however, we should scale back the fear and consider the immense positive benefits.

Personally, I got a flu shot this year at a local Rite-Aid. I stopped in to get a few things and saw they were offering vaccinations, so I hopped in line. It was that easy, and now that’s one less thing I’ll worry about as we move into winter.

That said, I advise you to talk to your doctor if you’re having second thoughts about the vaccine. Ask him or her to thoroughly explain how it might impact you and then make the decision you feel is right.

If you’re in San Diego and you think a flu shot is right for you, visit the Council of Community Clinics or Bayside Community Center. Both of these organizations are staffed by knowledgeable, helpful individuals, and they will be able to professionally administer your flu shot.

I hope this info makes flu season a little less stressful for you. What do you think about the flu vaccine? Will you be getting one this year? Leave a comment, and we’ll talk about it!

0625_AHF_Nancy-SQ-500-Nancy Sasaki, Executive Director
Alliance Healthcare Foundation

About Alliance Healthcare Foundation

Alliance Healthcare Foundation is a San Diego-based nonprofit which works with nonprofit, government and community agencies to advance health and wellness throughout the San Diego and Imperial Counties. AHF works to serve the most vulnerable – the poor, working poor, children and homeless by providing grants, advocacy and education to support its region.

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