Flu Shot of Not?

Although required to get the influenza vaccine through her job in healthcare, Marie Kowler isn’t necessarily a fan of it, and said, “If I could, I probably wouldn’t get [the flu shot] because I never got sick before I had one. But I haven’t gotten the flu after getting it either, so there’s no real tradeoff for me.”

Freshman Jamal Reeves received the vaccine, but knows people who didn’t. “To them [those that didn’t get the shot] I would say that they are risking getting sick, but then again, the most vulnerable are older people and children.”

Tacoma Public Health (TPH) contact Eddie Jeffers could not be reached for specifics about the flu shot, and neither could any nurses from UW Tacoma’s Health Center. However, there is plenty of information regarding the shot on the Tacoma Public Health website, listing facts and common myths and misconceptions about the vaccine.

The website encourages anyone over the age of six months to annually receive the vaccine, including pregnant women but excluding those with egg allergies or a certain nervous system disorder. The allergy restriction comes from the fact that the vaccine virus is grown inside hen eggs. However, this year, those who can eat scrambled eggs are also encouraged to receive the shot.

The effectiveness is determined by the “match up” between the deactivated virus in the vaccine and the viruses spreading in the community. As for safety? The website claims that “several systems are in place to watch for possible side effects after vaccines are given.” Also, since it can take up to two weeks for the immune system to recognize the deactivated virus, TPH preaches “the earlier, the better.”

Junior Christopher Mullsen didn’t get the vaccine, although he had the opportunity to. “I read about the mercury in the flu shot, and I don’t want any more toxins in me than there has to be.” When asked what he thought about the TPH website’s claim that the vaccine’s mercury is in miniscule amounts in an anti-contaminate Thimerosal,  Mullsen said, “Mercury is mercury. Poison is poison!”

The above mentioned nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is involved with the vaccine. TPH’s website stated, “In 1976, a type of influenza (swine flu) vaccine was associated with (GBS).” But no major recent links have been made between the two. The Center for Disease Control stated that in 1976, those who received the vaccine had a small increased risk of getting GBS, allocating an extra 1 case for every 100,000. Apparently no concrete cause has been identified.

No healthcare professionals could be found to be against the flu shot, but hospital lab technician, Molly Hawkins, voiced her doubts. “The flu viruses change from year to year, and the vaccine can’t possibly protect from all of them. The effectiveness of the shot is if-y, and changes every year, like the viruses themselves.” When asked what advice to give to those who refuse the shot, she said, “Just do your own research. If you find something you don’t like, don’t get the shot.”