Chili, pumpkins, beautiful Autumn foliage and of course influenza, yep it’s that time of year again. The flu shot (vaccine) can be found almost everywhere nowadays. Our local pharmacies have more signage out advertising the flu shot than an election campaign on November 1st. Some employers, like Shae’s, even have flu shot drives on site.
Last flu season (Oct 2013 to May 2014) only about 34% of 18-64 year olds were vaccinated but the same age group made up 61% of hospital cases. So the myth that flu only affects children and the elderly is totally bunk.
This year, in order to help protect Frugal Boy and our sanity, we each received a flu shot.
So what exactly is the flu shot and how does it protect you from getting sick? Each year, researchers try to predict what strains of virus will be prevalent in the upcoming flu season. They then grow those viruses in chicken eggs, deactivate the grown viruses, and combine them into one big slurry that is your vaccine. The inactivated viruses in the vaccine cannot make you sick, they are for lack of a better word, dead. Your body however doesn’t know the difference, so it produces antibodies to fight off the ‘dead’ invader. Once your body has created antibodies to counter the viruses, you have an immunity to that particular strain of influenza. This immunity takes about 2 weeks to develop from when you receive the vaccine so if somebody in your house already has the flu, you’re probably too late to get protected.
It is difficult to say how effective the flu shot is because there are many variables for each year and individual. If you’d like to read more, the CDC has a webpage dedicated to the topic.
Finally, the conversation of the flu shot wouldn’t be complete without talking a bit about side affects real and mythical. Unless you have an allergy to eggs or latex, the basic needle stick in your arm flu shot will only give you a sore arm for a couple of days. There are a few nutters out there that claim that mercury in a flu shot causes autism. They are full of crap, and here is what the vaccine information sheet has to say about that,
Some inactivated flu vaccine contains a very small amount of a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. Studies have shown that thimerosal in vaccines is not harmful, but flu vaccines that do not contain a preservative are available.
So take off your tinfoil hat, and if that is too much to ask for, just get a darn flu shot that doesn’t have preservatives.
Shae’s shot took 5 minutes out of her day (employee clinic), mine took 25 minutes (doctor’s office). Walgreen’s and CVS are probably somewhere in-between. The cost is a whopping $30 without insurance. If you’re reading this blog, chances are good that you have health insurance. So go get vaccinated and save yourself from several days of misery!