In Light of Flu Severity, Why Is Vaccine Not More Popular?
Current Flu Epidemic
This year’s flu epidemic is especially severe, with 29 children dying nationwide so far from flu complications, and hospitalizations increasing sharply for people over 65 with the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a typical year, some 200,000 Americans will be hospitalized with the flu, and as many as 40,000 will die from its complications — principally pneumonia — according to the CDC.
Yet only 37 percent of Americans had received the flu vaccine by early this year. So why don’t more people get vaccinated?
Use flue vaccine
Part of the answer is fear. Some anti-vaccine groups continue to promulgate claims that the flu vaccine is ineffective – and even “toxic,” and that flu vaccines lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders. At one point, many people believed reports in the media that vaccines caused autism. There is now extensive scientific evidence from more than 1,000 research papers that there is no link between vaccines and autism, according to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.
Some Worry About Side Effects
Another reason is that people are afraid that certain dangerous side effects may occur. The CDC reports that the most common side effects of getting the flu vaccine – which are not signs of an allergic reaction – are not serious.
They occur in a small percentage of people, and last for one to two days:
- soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
- hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough
Severe side effects are very rare, and include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, weakness, a fast heart beat, or dizziness. If any of these occur, the person should immediately see a doctor.
Here are some other misconceptions people have about flu vaccine from Harvard Medical School:
1. The vaccine can give you the flu.
Because the vaccine contains an inactive form of the flu virus (not the actual flu), it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It takes a week or two for the vaccine to take effect, so some people who develop the flu after getting the vaccine were already going to get it anyway. The vaccine did not cause their illness.
2. You don’t need to get a flu shot if you’re healthy.
Anyone can get the flu. Certain people are more susceptible – such as the very young, the very old, and those with chronic diseases. But if you’re healthy, you can still get the flu and spread the virus to others. That is why health care workers are strongly urged to get a flu shot.
3. The flu isn’t serious. It is just a bad cold.
Flu usually has far more symptoms than a cold, such as fever. Although most people recover without lasting problems, the flu can lead to hospitalization and even death, especially in children, the elderly, and those with chronic disease.
4. Once you get one flu shot, you don’t need another in your lifetime.
Because the flu virus changes every year, you will not have immunity to all strains. Each year’s flu vaccine is tailored to the strain of virus predicted to cause illness where you live.
5. If you get the flu, antibiotics will “cure” it.
The flu is a virus; antibiotics will only work to cure an infection caused by bacteria. If you have a severe case of the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication such asoseltamivir (Tamiflu) to lessen your symptoms.