Why I Get the Flu Shot (And Why You Should Too)

Vaccination Distrust and Herd Immunity CompromiseI'll keep this brief, because it's become an annual event on this blog. If you want a longer version, read "Vaccination Myths Compromise Herd Immunity".

I always get the flu shot and my kids always get the flu shot. My mom and brothers get the flu shot as well, but I promised I'd keep this brief, so on to the highlights...

3 reasons you should get the flu shot:

It's the best show in town
No, the flu shot isn't perfect, but it's the best show in town. Even if it's only 65% accurate that's far better than 0% and even if you are in the group that gets sick despite a vaccine, your illness will be milder and shorter. Why get sick if you don't have to?

Do it for others
Even if you're as healthy as a horse and never get sick, do it for those you come in contact with who are less healthy, very young or very old. Do it for them if you're too stubborn to do it for yourself. Why be a carrier? Getting a flu shot is simply good citizenship.

The flu shot won't make you sick
This might be my biggest pet peeve at this time of year. Otherwise intelligent people will tell you they don't want to get the flu shot because it puts the virus in your body. A flu shot is made with dead virus cells and cannot and will not make you sick. It's an impossibility. Dead virus cells are dead. Period.

Do yourself and others a favour this year and get your flu shot. It will even reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke...


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Comments (58 - click here to join in!)

Argie

@Mike
I agree there are a lot of myths out there about the flu shot but for me, I have no need for it.

If you're old, a toddler or of weak health, the flu shot would be for you but I'm not any of those.

In fact, I really don't know what the flu is. Friends and work colleagues will tell me stuff like "you feel like dying', or "you can't move, your body aches, etc". I'm sorry, but I've never felt like that in my life. Sure, I've been sick to my stomach but the conventional flu is something different and I've never experienced it.

October 28, 2013 @ 11:40 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

But why get sick if you don't have to?

Why miss work if you don't have to?

Your friends who claim they got sick did not get that way from the flu shot... they may be attributing it to the flu shot, but that might be an unfortunate coincidence. The worst side effect I've ever had was a sore arm for a short while...

October 28, 2013 @ 11:45 AM

Dave

Sure, it’s those who are older or have other chronic illnesses that we really worry about. But every year I see King-Kong healthy people moaning on a stretcher sick with flu.

And even if you don’t get that sick, it will take about 3 weeks to get your sea-legs back - meaning, you’re are at risk for every other bug under the sun. BTW, the No. 1 cause of death from flu is Heart Attack.

October 28, 2013 @ 11:47 AM

Argie

@Mike
But I don't get sick. I probably miss 1 day a year at the most (and in all cases its because of something I ate).

Unlike some people, I can come to work with the sniffles.

I think it helps that I'm a germaphobe.

October 28, 2013 @ 11:50 AM

TheSweaterTuck

@Argie
Lucky. I've had it a few times and it's seldom the same twice. The worst I ever had it, I had massive leg pains to the point where I was limping. I couldn't sleep because I couldn't get warm, but at the same time, couldn't stop sweating. This was on top of head cold symptoms like running nose, cough, sore throat, etc. I survived, but I got it during exams in my final year of university and the worst of it the night before a job interview. I get it because I don't want to go through that again. I respect somebody's right to say they don't want it, but I can't stand someone who isn't qualified dictating who should get it.

I think the "you can get the flu from it" misconception comes from the fact that you can experience side effects from the shot that are sometimes described as "flu-like", though it is NOT actually the flu.

October 28, 2013 @ 11:52 AM

Lyle Lanley

Take it from me, the flu sucks. You don't want it, Argie. And although you feel immune, you're not.

October 28, 2013 @ 11:59 AM

Irv

Which is why so many health care workers are against it. What would front line nurses know?

October 28, 2013 @ 12:02 PM

Petti

I am very uneasy about some random nurse plunging a needing into my arm with a serum I know very little about.

Yes, I could get this from my doctor, but if I rarely get sick, why bother taking foreign substances into my body?

Just doesn't seem right to me.

October 28, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

Matt

Another year and another Toronto Mike flu shot thread. I will not be getting it again.

I'm curious, is the flu shot as popular in other parts of the world (Europe for instance) or is it just a North American thing?

October 28, 2013 @ 12:22 PM

Ottawa Mike

Got my shot at a local Rexall pharmacy with a pharmasists. They seem to be doing it on a "walk in" basis.

Shoppers Drug Marts seem to have pharmacists who are holding flu shot clinics once and that's it! These clinics are usually 10 A.M. to whatever time before 4 P.M. they can handle. Great, for those that work regular hours Monday through Friday.

Ottawa's Public Health Department is sending out mixed messages. At first they were saying the clinics they were putting on were for those with children 5 year old and under and their families. This is because apparently pharmacists are not allowed to immunize 5 year olds and younger. An appointment was also required.

Now the health department, probably after a little flack from others like myself without children, has possibly opened it up to everyone.

Of course you can always visit your doctor, but that isn't convenient for everyone either.

So take note of possibilities in your area including pharmacies, city health departments, doctor's offices or walk in clinics.

October 28, 2013 @ 12:28 PM

Matt

From CNN

The flu hasn't hit Europe as hard as it has the United States, health officials say, but when and if it does, don't expect a call for vaccination of the entire population.

Only the U.S. and Canada actually encourage everyone older than 6 months to get the flu vaccine.

Apparently, not a single country in Europe asks the general population to seek that same kind of protection, according to Robb Butler, the World Health Organization technical officer in vaccine preventable diseases and immunizations in the organization's Europe office in the Netherlands.

That's because global health experts say the data aren't there yet to support this kind of blanket vaccination policy, nor is there enough money. In fact, some scientists say the enthusiasm for mass vaccination in the United States may hurt efforts to create a better vaccine.

October 28, 2013 @ 12:31 PM

markosaar

I've never gotten the flu shot, but I'm coming around to it.

Argie, doesn't Irv being against it make you want to shove to the front of the line and jam the needle in yourself?

October 28, 2013 @ 12:39 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Matt

Don't bury the lead... "nor is there enough money".

When I was in Venice they were complaining about the money being spent on flood prevention. There's little money in Europe and they're hesitant to spend any.

October 28, 2013 @ 1:02 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Petti

Are you a medical doctor?

October 28, 2013 @ 1:03 PM

A Friend

@Irvine

Harvard had a nice article about the 33% of nurses refusing flu shots.

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/billofhealth/2013/01/18/flu-vaccine-myths-and-healthcare-providers/

It's time that 33% stop thinking about only themselves and start caring about their patients.

October 28, 2013 @ 1:10 PM

Nigel Trousershrapnel

Personal choice really. Do what you want.

Love the drinkers and the smokers who use the "I am uneasy putting foreign substances in my body".

With the number of foreign substances I have introduced into my system over the years, a flu shot pales in comparison.

October 28, 2013 @ 1:25 PM

Ryan P

Here's my brief story.

I got the shot last year for the first time ever. I believe in science - not bs no fact based myths. The most I have ever had to take off work for a cold or flu was 2 days in a row since 2003. I've probably only had 8 sick days in 10 years.

Last year, I was off work for 2 weeks because about 2 weeks after I got the shot, I got some crazy upper respiratory virus where I would cough so hard that I'd puke. Maybe my immune system was already low when I got it and it made the virus worse - I don't know.

I'm not getting it this year for the same reason that people who ride a roller coaster and crap their pants don't go back for a second ride on their next trip. I had a bad experience so mentally, I can't make myself go.

I'm healthy and I supplement that with echinacea and other immune system boosters. Its worked for a decade(minus 1 bad experience). If I start getting sick every year, I'll give it another "shot" (see what I did there?)

October 28, 2013 @ 1:59 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Ryan P

It simply can't work that way. It can't make you more susceptible to a worse flu.

At 65% effectiveness you can still get the flu... not from the shot but from the typical avenues. Or possibly you had the virus before you got the shot. Or, as I suspect from your symptoms, that wasn't the flu and all and it's just an unfortunate coincidence.

October 28, 2013 @ 2:09 PM

Dawn Keibals

Got my flu shot last week from my doctor.Afterwords as he was typing onto my file he commented that this is the 10th year in a row he has given me the shot. (He is a good guy and I always talk about something else so he can charge OHIP for a full visit)

So it has been 10 years now since I have had the flu.I attend a heath club 4 times a week (face it germs galore on exercise equipment) and also the grocery store weekly where people insist on touching 23 different pieces of fruit before they purchase one. Never mind the never ever washed shopping cart handles.

YES,the flu shot does work.

October 28, 2013 @ 2:26 PM

Irv

@A Friend

The "flu shot" is just another way for Big Pharma to profit off manufactured fear. It's a profit bonanza for them based on FUD (fear, uncertainy and doom). When a good portion of front line nurses refuse the shots, I trust them. Front line medical workers are the "Sergeants" of the battlefield and sorry bud, but I trust a Sergeant more than I trust a Major. I especially trust older nurses who have been around a while. I've seen nurses come up with a correct diagnosis more often than doctors. I'll take the care of a grizzled old cranky nurse over some GP anyday.

I have to laugh at you fools who trust big medicine. These are public companies driven by profit. They sell you magic pills that "fix you" and often times the fix includes symptoms or side effects that are worse than your disease. As Chris Rock said "are you hot, are you cold? take this pill motherfucker".

Sorry to piss you off dude, but here is the raw reality. This voodoo medicine is designed so people can continue to live unhealthy lives. Rather than fix the "unhealthy" part, we patch shit up with magic potions & pills. It's just like that anti-bacterial soap crap. You build immunity by being exposed to illness not by running from it. Should people get the shot. Well elderly people should & maybe those with serious illness. Kids? No way.

Heavy use of medication & shit like that is the prime cause of "superbugs". You start seeing virus' and bacteria which become resistent to that. It's the medical equivalent of GMO's. I'm not against vaccinations for stuff like polio or TB. I'm against it for the garden variety of a cold or the flu.

But hey, I get the "paint by numbers" types that buy into what they're sold. I just wish I was your vendor.

October 28, 2013 @ 2:54 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Irv

And what are your thoughts on vaccinations for smallpox or polio?

October 28, 2013 @ 3:01 PM

Mississauga Phil

@ Mike - Not to side too much with Irv here, but this isn't a vaccine. I've had my smallpox and polio vaccines and now am IMMUNE to them. If someone wants to give me a vaccine that will make me immune to the flu, I'm all over it.

I'm like Argie...the way the flu is described to me, I doubt I've ever had it. Sure I get a stomach bug, or a cold, but I don't ever recall having the "I'm hot/no I'm cold, body aches, nausea, blah blah blah". and I'd rather not have unneeded medication pumped into me.

October 28, 2013 @ 3:10 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Mississauga Phil

The flu shot is indeed a vaccination, it's just specific to the year it which it's made, so you've got to get one each year.

But it's most definitely a vaccine.

October 28, 2013 @ 3:14 PM

Mississauga Phil

@ Mike - so why is it I don't need a shot for smallpox and polio every year??

October 28, 2013 @ 3:21 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Mississauga Phil

In a nutshell, the flu mutates.

Mutation follows mutation until the surface of the virus at large in the community looks so different from the original virus that a person’s immune system no longer recognizes it as being the same microbe that it encountered in the past.

Hence the need to develop a new vaccine every year...

October 28, 2013 @ 3:27 PM

Argie

As Matt touched on it earlier, N Americans seem to buy in into this annual scarefest a lot more than Europeans. I think we're swayed more by Twitter, facebook and other media than common sense into following like cattle.

As Phil stated, if the shot was 100% effective, I would go for it.

October 28, 2013 @ 3:27 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

It will never be 100%, due to the mutation I just wrote about, but like I said... 75% is a hell of a lot better than 0% and if I get the flu the symptoms will be less severe than they would have been had I not got the flu vaccine.

October 28, 2013 @ 3:29 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

And I don't think Twitter and Facebook is hyping this. If anything, it's giving the myths and junk scientists a voice. Lies spread just as fast via FB and Twitter than truths.

And I've been asking you all to get a flu shot since 2004 now: http://www.torontomike.com/2004/11/flu_shots.html

I'm pretty sure that predates social media as you describe it...

October 28, 2013 @ 3:32 PM

Mississauga Phil

@ Mike - I'm not militantly against the flu shot. However, I am the type of guy that will try non pharmaceutical remedies to headaches, colds etc. before I go for the drugs. It's that philosophy that leads me to not wanting the flu shot. I've never had need for it, I rarely get sick.

For me, this comes back to not needlessly injecting things into my body.

October 28, 2013 @ 3:39 PM

Tron

I have to say I do find it odd when I hear nurses so passionately fighting against mandatory flu shots for themselves.

Wouldn't that be like going to a laser eye technician and the technician is wearing prescription glasses and you ask them "Why are you wearing glasses" and he answers "I don't trust this technology" just before he zaps your eyes lol.

October 28, 2013 @ 4:30 PM

Corey

@Toronto Mike -

Are you padding your effectiveness stats? You started out by claiming the flu vaccine is 65% effective. Later you said 75% effective.

The fact is, there's no way to say how effective it is from year to year. It's a bit of a crap shoot - they try and predict the most likely active stains for a specific season. If they get it wrong, the vaccine is not going to be effective. There's no way you can confidently state that it's 65% effective. According the the Center for Disease Control, last season's vaccine (2012-13) had an effectiveness of 56%. The vaccine is also less effective the older you get, so last season's was only 27% effective for ages 65 and greater.

Get the vaccine if you want. Maybe the placebo effect itself will help some people. My own immune system has been 100% effective at warding off the flu. Seems to me that for anyone else, it's basically a coin toss.

October 28, 2013 @ 4:42 PM

Irv

@TM

I said in the post that vaccines for polio, etc, are fine. I do not think that the bulk of what's left of the healthy population require more magic elixers. The human body was designed to build up immunity BY having exposure to common diseases.

I read your tweet on homepathy and natural remedies and I had to laugh. How arrogant to assume 10,000 years of human intelligence has no merit compared to a whole 35 years of modern medical science. You're like too many people who think the answer is technology or more pills. I'm not against modern science, but I'm not about to disregard 10,000 years of human observation either. After I was hit by a car I had a crippling leg injury. I started getting gout and the fix wasn't magic pills, it was a glass of black cherry juice every day for a month.

You trust modern medicine do you? The same "medicine" that tells us that eggs are bad for u only to later tell us they're good for us. The same medicine that seems to want you to eat manufactured food like margarine rather than natural stuff like butter. Ants like butter, they don't like Becel. The same modern medical "industry" that is now coping with an endemic of autism yet strangely never seems to mention that said disease is almost non existent in the Mennonites.

I'll take an "all natural diet for $1000 Alex". Thanks.

October 28, 2013 @ 4:46 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Irv

Homeopathy is another entry for another time.

Do you know what they'd call 'alternative medicine' if it worked?

Medicine.

October 28, 2013 @ 4:51 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Corey

You sound special.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:06 PM

Irv

@TM

Sorry Mike, there are countless examples of bad & failed medicine. The Pharma industry is no different than Monsanto is. It's job is to maximize shareholder profit. Do you trust GMO'd food? Why would you trust a company that creates "medicine" that has side effects on some meds that are WORSE than the bloody disease. The cigarette industry once tried to convince the free world that smoking didn't cause cancer. There was no proof. Oh and "science" once told us to "duck and cover" when the enemy dropped a nuclear warhead on your city. Hell I bet those chemtrails are good for us too lol

Big Pharma = gangsters.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:23 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I don't know why I bother listening to my doctor when Irv knows everything...

October 28, 2013 @ 5:33 PM

andrew

@ Irv

Bang on.

Your body doesn't need any more crap - a flu shot being injected as it should be able to do it on is own with POSSIBLE sicknesses.
The flu this year is minor compared to last 2 years & yet most gotta get a flu shot. Just because they read that you will be protected.

How many of you people who had flu shots this year have your kids wear helmets when riding a bike. That is more concerning.

Probably none or a very few.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:36 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@andrew

Let the record show that I believe kids should get flu shots and wear helmets when biking.

I also believe in brushing your teeth, daily exercise and not smoking.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:40 PM

andrew

Forgot to mention if you are elderly OR have as disease the flu vaccine is for you & should get it.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:50 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

Thanks for the clarification Dr. andrew.

October 28, 2013 @ 5:52 PM

Icarus


Mike, there are a lot of variations of the flu and the jab does not protect against them all.

Also, I don't believe its possible to accurately tell if 100% of the virus is dead. Remember, they are notoriously hard things to kill, and to verify 'as killed'. If 99.9% are dead, then you've just injected yourself with the flu!

There are a lot of murky policies going on in the pharmaceutical industry which shockingly promote sales but not always good information and products.

The best criticism I have read regarding flu antidotes comes from (medical) Dr. Ben Goldacre. Here's an example:

http://www.badscience.net/2006/02/the-great-tamiflu-vaccine-scare/

October 28, 2013 @ 5:59 PM

CQ

I'll agree with Irv 16:46.
And: in reply to Mike's 17:40 comment.
I contend that kids NOT wear helmets when biking. And may 'The Simpsons' OmniTouch Corporation build a wireless windmill generator directly into your home. ;)

October 28, 2013 @ 6:29 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@CQ

You're a child killing monster.

October 28, 2013 @ 6:31 PM

Anonymous

@Icarus

Your Ben Goldacre quote is quite out of context here. That was specifically related to swine flu.

Ben Goldacre is actually a great voice against vaccine-fear-mongering as I see here in these comments.

October 28, 2013 @ 6:35 PM

Declan

Sorry, that was me posting above.

October 28, 2013 @ 6:36 PM

Argie

@Mike
You know you're wrong when you can get Irv, Icarus and me to agree on something. First time for everything.

October 28, 2013 @ 7:16 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

It's my best bet for avoiding the flu. I'll stick with science on this one... You, Irv and Icarus have the right to opt out, but I believe you're showing poor judgement.

October 28, 2013 @ 7:23 PM

Icarus

@Argie Thats a disgusting thing to say. I think I had better take a shower.

@Anon, I know the Tamiflu isn't directly related to the shot, just an example of the murky information thats out there on the subject. There's a lot of wooly science about combating the flu.

October 28, 2013 @ 8:23 PM

Irv

@TM

But Mike it's not science that's the thing. This 'science' you talk about is much like the Al Gore versus Climate Change deniers. Both sides are full of shit and they both have an agenda.

I normally try to stay away from posting links & shit to prove a point as all thinks are shill. But I found this from the "Center for Disease Control".

CDC: Flu vaccine often doesn’t work

In a new study out Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control, the vaccine proved effective just over half of the time. And among seniors who are 65 years old and older, one of the most vulnerable populations, the vaccine only offered nine percent protection.

October 28, 2013 @ 9:14 PM

Gump

I for one, welcome a new version of the Spanish flu, and this time, instead of targeting juvenile, elderly, or already weakened patients, take out Rob Ford supporters, anyone named Kardasian and especially those that mistrust "science" (starting with you Jenny McCarthy).

October 28, 2013 @ 9:43 PM

Ajax Mike

@Irvine

"The human body was designed to build up immunity BY having exposure to common diseases."

LOL... seriously, I LOL'd seeing that statement in an anti-vaccine comment. Because that's EXACTLY how vaccines work.

October 29, 2013 @ 7:42 AM

Cambo

All it will take is one "bad batch" of vaccine to be produced, a whack of people get sick and or die, and any confidence in the flu shot will be gone.

This, along with "Chicken Pox" vaccines are produced by HUGE pharma conglomerates who convince governments to buy it and deliver it to their populations. A "manufactured" crisis. For the elderly and those who are immune-compromised, sure. But the shot is not the be-all that everyone thinks it is.

The thing is, you will never know if the flu shot actually works for you. Those who get the flu shot and end up with some other type of flu (not a cold, a true flu) will attribute it to a flu that that shot was never designed for. So, what was the point?

For MMR, Polio, absolutely. Those are completely necessary. It's a shame that the Jenny McCarthy's in the world blast on about those vaccines causing Autism etc.

But for flu? A shot in the dark? If you can guarantee me that it is 100% effective against "All flu" then maybe. But with millions of other types of flu floating around- it's a human's best guess.

October 29, 2013 @ 9:58 AM


James

Just in case you were still curious as to why people are twitchy about vaccinating themselves, and more so about vaccinating their children...

http://www.ctvnews.ca/w5/sleeping-sickness-a-w5-investigation-into-the-sudden-rise-in-childhood-narcolepsy-1.1524420

November 2, 2013 @ 6:41 PM

James

If you'd like a more reputeable source than CTV, this was also picked up by the toronto Star.

November 2, 2013 @ 6:44 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

CTV is a fine source...

But it all sounds very inconclusive, and if anything, the H1N1 flu virus seems to be the culprit.

November 2, 2013 @ 6:48 PM

James

Or a vaccination against same. But even still, they're not even completely sure about that much. And that's a problem when people are insisting these things are safer than the alternative.

November 2, 2013 @ 7:06 PM

Sylvie

In 2003 I got the flu shot and was so sick I had to go to the hospital. and then didn't get the flu shot until 2010.
From 2004 to 2009 none of us ended up in the hospital, we did get sick but not that sick.
In 2010 we got the flu shot and Myself my son and my husband ended up in the hospital. My Son was in there for a week and my husband was in there for the night pumped up with IV gravol. So the two times we did get the flu shot we ended up getting sick even more then the times we didn't get it. Yes we will get the flu in the house its a given with 6 people. but for the fact that it isn't as severe when we did get the flu shot. We aren't getting it. When we are sick we take gravol and Gatorade. Hell soon enough there will be a hype about a new Vaccine for a Common Cold and everyone will jump to get it. In the olden days did they have flu shots, no they didn't. They rested and kept Hydrated.

November 18, 2013 @ 11:31 AM

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