This year’s flu season is already in full swing and so begins the Great Flu Debate of 2017, an annual discussion revisited each October at the start of the flu season, one which continues through the season’s peak in February and finally levels off sometime in May. Among the passionate supporters on all sides, “To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?” remains the question.
As a registered nurse, I am often asked how I feel about the flu vaccine and my answer is that I respect each individual’s right (including my own) to weigh the facts and choose for themselves and for their own families what they believe to be the right decision.
For example, when I was responsible for a vulnerable patient population in a community hospital nine years ago and expected by administrators to consent to a vaccine each season to protect myself, my patients, and the facility’s near-perfect statistics for staff compliance with immunizations, I chose to decline immunization.
I believed that the preventative measures I took every other day of the year would continue to protect myself and my patients during flu season and have still never had an incident during my ten-year career.
On the other hand, this time four years ago I was keeping busy in our physician office’s annual flu clinic, offering the vaccine to any patients who were interested. This meant spending each day in a tiny basement office, greeting patients in a makeshift waiting room, signing consent forms, and preparing syringes.
The goal was to vaccinate as many men, women, and children as possible until our supplies ran out and we had no choice but to close up shop for the season. (Is it any wonder then that worldwide flu vaccine sales totaled $3.1 billion that year?)
The CDC estimated that the effectiveness of that year’s vaccine was less than two-thirds, meaning that getting a flu vaccine reduced the vaccinated population’s risk of having to go to the doctor because of the flu by 60% for both children and adults.
Depending on whether you are more of a glass half-full or half-empty type of personality, that is either more than 80 million (out of 134 million) who successfully avoided being infected or nearly 54 million who received the vaccine and still got sick.
REASON #1: The flu vaccine is not guaranteed to be effective despite sales of over $3.1 billion annually.
Holistic Health Perspective
While it may not seem like much of a gamble to take a vaccine and hope that you are one of the 60% who benefits, a whole new level of risk is introduced when considering some of the potentially negative effects of the vaccine.
For one thing, several controversial vaccine additives have been associated with brain and immune system dysfunction. One of these is thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative used since the 1930s to prevent microbial contamination, which has subsequently been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines routinely recommended for children six years of age and younger (but not for adults).
REASON #2: The flu vaccine contains harmful additives known to cause brain and immune system dysfunction.
While thimerosal-free alternatives exist, there are other risks involved. The FluMist nasal spray in particular contains an influenza variant that was created in a laboratory. It is also a live virus, which means that the recipient has the potential to “shed” the virus, thus posing a threat to those they come in contact with who have a compromised immune system.
Even the traditional injection method of delivery can have serious consequences for those with an imbalanced or compromised immune system. Put simply, it is unnatural to bypass your body’s front line of immune defense via the nasal passages and mucous membranes and inject it directly into your body tissue.
REASON #3: The flu vaccine is unnatural and poses a threat to individuals with a weakened immune system.
Knowing these things, how can you make an informed decision?
While these are three reasons presented in the case for avoiding the flu vaccine, there are undeniably some circumstances in which the flu vaccine may be advisable, particularly for women with a severe chronic illness. As always, I would recommend discussing these in depth with your physician.
No matter what, there are practical steps you can take to safeguard your health and avoid any viral infections this winter season – the same precautions I took as a nurse that kept me from becoming ill while working with sick patients.
Ironically, it wasn’t until I left working in a hospital and was your average tourist in Boston during a troublesome flu outbreak in 2013 that I contracted the virus and spent a miserable week holed up in my friend’s house, surviving on NSAIDs and decongestants, suffering from an infection I attributed to high levels of stress, a weakened immune system, and less-than-ideal hygiene while sightseeing in an infected urban environment.
Don’t forget the basics: To wash your hands regularly with soap and water (or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when on the run), to cough or sneeze into your elbow, and to keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
What are your thoughts on or experiences with the flu vaccine? Comment below to share!