‘Tis the season to spread the love ... and the germs. Each year, millions of Americans roll up their sleeves for their annual flu shot in hopes that they’ll escape the miserable virus. Many don’t think twice about having their children vaccinated as wel, but more and more folks are questioning whether the flu shot is really all it’s cracked up to be.
This year, many of them are saying, “No, thanks.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, 128 million Americans—42 percent of the population—got the flu shot last year. The CDC recommends anyone healthy over the age of six months of age to get the flu shot, and though 75 of parents had their infants vaccinated last year, only 34 percent of kids age 13 to 17 received the shot.
The CDC also strongly recommends pregnant women to get vaccinated, yet less than 50 percent of all pregnant women followed this advice during the 2011-12 season. This year, according to one online survey, 65 percent of moms said they would vaccinate their kids for the flu season to protect their entire families. But what about the other 35 percent?
Though vaccines have been around for decades, they have become controversial among some circles in the past few years, particularly with parents of children with autism. Though medical officials continue to argue that the risks the vaccines carry are of far less concern than the actual diseases themselves, many mothers disagree, saying it is these very vaccines that have made their children so sick. And when it comes to the flu shot, they’re not taking any more chances.
Mark Hyman, practicing physician, founder of the UltraWellness Center and four-time bestselling New York Times author, had this to say in his Huffington Post article last year: “What consumer product creates billions in profit for its manufacturer every year and is recommended and almost mandated by our government to be used by all Americans over six months old? The flu shot.”
While Hyman supports vaccinations as a whole, he believes the flu shot has been overly hyped up and is one vaccination Americans can safely skip out on. According to his research, there are 200 strains of flu and viruses each year, yet the vaccination the public is offered covers only about 10 percent of these strains, making it not especially effective in many cases. He recommends healthy habits, like taking vitamin D, getting plenty of rest and exercise and avoiding sugar and stress as a much better alternative to the shot.
Other doctors leaning toward more holistic approaches agree with Hyman. While the CDC maintains that thousands of people die from the flu each year, they say that number is highly exaggerated. According to Carol Baker, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, 100 kids die each year from the seasonal flu; 90 percent of reported flu-related deaths among Americans were, in fact, in people over 65 years of age who had pre-existing health conditions.
So just how risky is the shot? While short-term minor side effects include temporary swelling and pain at the site of the shot, as well as flu-like symptoms for a day or two, other more serious side effects have been reported. In 2010, Finland reported 79 cases of narcolepsy in children between the ages of 4-19 who had received the swine flu shot. Guillain Barre Syndrome, a serious and potentially life threatening autoimmune disease that causes weakness and paralysis, has been reported in relation with the flu shot on several occasions. Holistic doctors also point to the evidence of thiomersal, a neurotoxin containing mercury that is widely used as a vaccine preservative.
Many are concerned about casualness of the environment the shot is often administered in as well. “These days, I wouldn’t be surprised to see McDonalds offering a flu shot with a side of fries and a drink,” one blogger wrote. “It seems like every grocery store and pharmacy in town has offered the ‘convenient’ flu shot on site. But what if these so-called doctors administering the shot aren’t educated or prepared should a rare side effect occur?”
As a mother, I hate nothing more than to see my kids sick, so when it comes to the flu shot controversy, I find myself torn.
When my children were infants, I chose to have them get the flu shot along with the rest of their immunizations. In fact, I thought nothing of it and even sang along with Elmo on TV when he encouraged young kids to get out there and prevent the flu. But in the past few years, I’ve taken an overall more holistic approach and find myself confused and overwhelmed by the barrage of information on both sides.
The cost is also an issue. Since the shot is not covered by my insurance, I’m forced to fork out $150 if I choose to have my family of six vaccinated. This past year, I chose not to get the flu shot and had my kids skip out as well.
None of us got sick.
So is it just a gamble we take year to year, weighing the risks and crossing our fingers for good health?
Parents, when it comes to the flu shot, do you get your kids vaccinated? And do you get the shot yourself? Do you think the flu epidemic has been hyped up every year, or do you think prevention is always the safest way to go? We want to hear from you!