Every year we hear public debate over whether flu shots are worth getting. If you do a simple Google search of the topic, you’ll find nearly 50-50 results, with respectable opinions on each side of the matter.
What can we take away from the debate? How do you know whether a flu shot is worth obtaining? It probably comes down to how you interpret the arguments and what matters most to you.
The Mayo Clinic’s take
Let’s start by looking at what the Mayo Clinic, one of the most respected names in U.S. health care,has to say about flu shots. According to the organization’s website, it stands behind the idea that a flu shot is the best deterrent against catching the flu.
Furthermore, the Mayo Clinic stresses the idea that an annual flu shot is necessary because viruses evolve rapidly and a previous year’s vaccine isn’t capable of protecting against a new strain. The Mayo Clinic adds that flu shots are especially vital for pregnant women, older adults, and young children who are considered at risk when it comes to influenza-related complications.
However, it does acknowledge that certain individuals who are either allergic to eggs or have had severe reactions to previous vaccines should check with their primary care doctor before getting the shot.
Harvard Health’s approach
Nancy Ferrari, senior editor of Harvard Health, agrees. While she says the two common reasons people avoid flu vaccines –either they think it will give them the flu or they don’t believe it works — she says neither is accurate.
Ferrari writes, “The flu vaccine may be imperfect, but it’s still worth getting.” She highlights three reasons in particular.
First, she says the shot may keep you from getting the flu … and thepossibility alone is sufficient reason. Second, if you do end up getting the flu, the vaccine will likely keep you from getting as sick as you would have without the shot.
Third, if the vaccine does in fact keep you from contracting the flu, it prevents you from passing it on to people who could become seriously ill as a result of catching the influenza bug through you.
In other words, Ferrari doesn’t know whether it works or not, but she argues it’s worth taking because she believes there’s really no risk associated with doing so. She also points out that so many places offer free shots that there’s no reason not to take them up on the offer.
Reputable doctors’ positions
Dr. Kelly Brogan takes a firm stance against the efficacy of flu shots, citing multiple studies that suggest there is no link between flu vaccines and a reduced risk of contracting influenza.
While it’s possible that vaccines could be helpful, Brogan says we don’t know enough at this point to encourage everyone to get a flu shot. She believes it could even be dangerous to some individuals.
Dr. David Williams, a biochemist and medical researcher, also warns against getting a flu shot. His reasoning? “If your immune system is weak or out of balance when the virus is introduced this way, you could have serious health consequences.”
What to make of the debate
For people keeping track, that’s one reputable institution supporting the efficacy of flu shots, one reputable health publication saying that, at the very least, it doesn’t cause any harm, and two reputable doctors saying the flu vaccine isn’t worth taking and could be dangerous.
Ultimately, until some irrefutable and concrete evidence is brought forth, the decision about what to do remains up to you.
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