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No Flu for You

November 17, 2013

I’m sure some of you never get the flu shot because you “never get sick,” or because you just don’t feel like it, or maybe because you’ve been given some scary misinformation in the past. Well, in any case, it’s that time of year to get vaccinated and I thought it would be nice to clear up some rumors in the hopes that some of you will reconsider!

Myth #1 – The flu shot can give you the flu

NOPE. Totally can’t. The injected vaccine contains only dead virus, which can’t infect you on account of it’s deadness. A very small percentage of people will experience symtpoms like mild fatigue, fever, and soreness which they often incorrectly assume is influenza. It’s actually just your body mounting an immune response to the shot – in other words, your body has recognized the foreign substance (the dead virus) and has begun the process of making antibodies against it. This is exactly what a vaccine is meant to do, for the record. Some people just have an immune system that is a little more zealous and makes them feel kinda under the weather when it’s doing it’s thang. The bottom line, however, is that the shot cannot give you the flu.

Myth #2 – I got the shot last year, I don’t need it again

Viruses mutate very quickly, which means each flu season has a slightly different cohort of flu strains than the previous year. A new vaccine is produced every year for this reason. It’s specifically engineered to help you develop antibodies against that year’s flu. You need to re-up your vaccination each year to have the best chance of defense.

Myth #3 – Big Pharma just wants my money!

See Myth #2 on why they want you to get an annual shot. Trust me, Big Pharma is not getting rich off these – all that sweet ca$h money comes from drugs like Viagra and Lipitor lol

Myth #4 – Vaccines are dangerous

You might have heard rumors about vaccines causing things like autism – specifically because of an ingredient called thimerosal. Well, this whole field of thought makes me CRAZY angry, so I don’t want to get into it too much… but I will point out that there is a thimerosal-free version of the flu vaccine that you can ask for (even though you’re an adult and you can’t retroactively get autism). If you are in the anti-vaccination camp though, I highly suggest you read what the CDC has to say about vaccines and autism here. Knowledge bombs.

Myth #5 – I’ll just take antibiotics if I get the flu

Spoiler alert: they won’t work. Influenza is a virus. Antibiotics only work on bacterial infections.

Myth #6 – I never get sick.

O RLY? Shut up. You are a human being, you get sick. You are not a superhero. You are likely in early to mid-adulthood and have a fully functioning immune system that allows you to recover very quickly from sickness. So it doesn’t feel so bad. However, if you do not get immunized, you allow yourself to carry that sickness like some nasty little skin sack incubator – and you can spread it to other people that might have a lesser immune system. Or perhaps to a child who is too young to get the flu shot themselves. Seasonal flu is particularly bad for the very young, the very old, and the immunocompromised. So don’t be a butthole and spread disease just because you “never get sick.”  Just get the shot, even if it’s only to protect those around you.

So stop into your health care provider or nearest drug store and get shot up ASAP friends!

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From → Biology

2 Comments
  1. patricknygren permalink

    PREACH.

  2. William permalink

    Yay, Immunology! (with a bonus Seinfeld reference, does it get much better?) With so much space and dino action this week, this was a pleasant surprise.

    A quick note about myth #2; the vaccine is most commonly made against the top three flavors of different virus families so they don’t always change year to year, but you’ll always get some new immunity. Even if has some of the same flavors, your immunity against the repeat ones declines over the course of the year (to something like 50% I think), so it’s good to get a boost.

    I remember one of my professors saying a major consideration when determining the strains to protect against was going to rural China (where the birds and swine are kept too close and in deplorable conditions) and looking for mutants that were passed back and forth. I couldn’t find anything online to corroborate that though.

    Another myth I hear is: I got the flu shot and still got sick (at a later time in the season), so it doesn’t work.
    That totally happens, but it’s because the scientists have to pick the strains which they believe provide the broadest protection for the upcoming season. They can’t cover them all and there isn’t just one flu, despite what the oversimplified names (the flu, flu shot, etc.) suggest. So if you still get sick, it’s more than likely because you caught a strain that wasn’t covered, not that the vaccine didn’t work.

    Your last few sentences are really hit on the key point. As weird as it seems, you don’t get the flu shot to prevent getting sick. You get the flu shot to protect the people that can’t protect themselves. But unfortunately that doesn’t sound sexy enough to get people to do it.

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