In advance of every flu season, you can pretty much expect the topics of conversation to tread on familiar territory. Among those who cite reasons to decline the flu shot, one popular but misguided notion is that the vaccine itself can make you sick. Not true according to the CDC. Others claim concerns about flu vaccination side effects or because they believe it’s generally ineffective. More distressingly, a fair number trust their immune system is enough to help them pull through a battle with the flu or flu-like illness without it.
Perhaps the question to start with is, “Why go through the flu if you don’t have to?”
- For starters, researchers tell us the influenza vaccine is safe because it uses inactivated or weakened live virus strains that mimic infection, subsequently teaching the immune system what to look for should a live flu virus enter the body.
- There’s also the “vaccine phobia” that comes from people reporting they felt feverish or achy after receiving their shots. Those rare reactions, apart from more common ones like redness at the injection site, aren’t signs of flu; in actuality, they are evidence the vaccine is working, building up antibodies in the immune system. Yet, the phobia itself is toxic enough to make many decline the flu shot outright.
- In terms of the effectiveness of the flu shot into perspective, a baseball analogy might help: a player who gets three hits out of 10 at bats is generally considered a success. Meanwhile, CDC stats suggest that flu vaccines prevent about 50 to 60 percent of flu infections. Some years, of course, are a little more hit and miss than that, but even the 2018-19 season’s less than stellar 47 percent rate (up 11 percent from the year before), puts the law of averages on your side.
Nothing to Fear, But the Flu Itself
Although there is surely an understandable, natural aversion to subjecting yourself to a voluntary needle poke in the arm, there are more than enough good reasons to not decline the flu shot. Healthy people who haven’t had the flu in years might say their previous recovery is all they need to protect them in the present. On one hand, that’s true—but it only applies to the particular strain of the virus they had in the past—not the ones that continue to mutate and strengthen year-after-year.
In practice, the added measure of protection you get from beating the flu unaided just doesn’t justify the beating the flu can give you.
Money is Not the Only Motivator
Other misconceptions about the flu relate to flu shot cost and the profit motives behind it. Even pro-science intellectuals are not immune. One version goes that money is the only reason why pharmaceutical companies are always pushing to increase vaccination rates. No doubt there is an economic incentive to it, but breakdown the numbers and you’ll find there’s actually more to be made in letting flu proliferate.
Looking at the Big 3 flu vaccine manufacturers (Sanofi Pasteur, Glaxo SmithKline, Novartis), percentage of sales of yearly flu vaccines figure in at just 3 percent, 1.3 percent, and 0.4 percent of their total, respectively.
Made to Order
On top of that, vaccine supplies left over when people decline the flu shot later becomes unused inventory that must be destroyed—never a positive thing for the bottom line. Manufacturers play a guessing game each year, and yet there are still shortages during times of crisis.
In a world without flu vaccines, the costs in human terms would likely be staggering. The prevention of some 78,000 hospitalizations per year would be wiped away, putting anywhere from 6,000 to 100,000 at greater risk of death from a pandemic outbreak. Your family’s share? About $4,000 per individual.
Get Better with Benzer (and Stay that Way)
By and large, there are minimal costs to get the flu shot, but a big price to pay in declining it. After all, wellness isn’t just a matter of getting better, it’s also about keeping yourself that way every season of the year. If you’ve been hesitant to take action in the past, make Benzer Pharmacy part of your plans in the present.
You can’t predict the future, but you can prepare for it.
Image provided in thanks to the American Academy of Pediatrics
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