Flu shot, what's the point?

Discussion in 'Community' started by starcrossed, Oct 20, 2004.

  1. starcrossed macrumors regular

    May 3, 2003
    San Antonio,TX
    Everyday on the news I hear over and over again about the long lines to get a flu shot and limited supply they have on hand, and people worried they might not get theirs. To me it seems pretty pointless to pay someone to give me the flu, since the flu virus is what exactly they inject inside you. The other thing is they probably manufactured this year's flu supply, a year ago when they used last year's flu version to make, and since the flu strain changes every year and possibly this year's flu could not be stopped by a flu shot. I just figure, if I get the flu, I get, if I don't, then I don't. I know you could die from getting the flu, but couldn't you also have the possibility to die from getting the shot. Anyhow, I'm trying to argue my point to others so they won't have to worry so much about not being able to get a flu shot, so if you can help prove my point, or even disprove my point, it would greatly be appreciated.
  2. MacFan26 macrumors 65816


    Jan 8, 2003
    San Francisco, California
    It's probably just because some people are used to getting the shot, so they feel like they have to have it in order to not get it. The amount of virus in the shots is very minimal, I imagine there's a very very low statistic of people that have actually died from it. I don't think I've gotten a flu shot since I was a kid, but I guess it's important for people who are at high risk for it, a flu shot could end up saving their lives.
  3. wordmunger macrumors 603


    Sep 3, 2003
    North Carolina
    I tend to get really laid out when I get the flu. It often knocks me out for a good two weeks, and I'm not really feeling like myself again for another week or so. I'm 37, in good health, but somehow very susceptible to the flu, so I always try to get the shot. Needless to say, I'm not getting the shot this year.

    I wrote a funny little blog post a few days after the shortage was announced:

    Scoring a hit of my drug of choice
  4. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    They kill the virus first. So they aren't giving you the flu. A small percentage of people react to the flu shot with a small fever.

    They use lots of approaches to predict which strains will be most active in the coming year. It isn't just last years virus. They see which ones are starting to break out across the world. Sometimes they don't get every strain.

    If you are healthy, it isn't such a big deal. But getting the shot (when you can) takes little effort, and can save you a few days of being sick.
  5. rueyeet macrumors 65816


    Jun 10, 2003
    In a shortage, it may actually make sense for healthier, lower-risk people to hold off getting flu shots so that the higher-risk people can get them.

    I never bother with flu shots, personally--I'm not unhealthy, and take good enough care of myself while sick not to be hit with any secondary infections (which are what make flu dangerous).
  6. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    I'm not a medical doctor, but I'll tell you what I know.

    Getting the shot is a personal decision that should be based on the odds that it will help you rather than hurt you. Public health policy is the same thing on a grand scale, deciding how to help the most people be healthiest. Overall, flu shots reduce the incidence of flu. For the most vulnerable, they are clearly a good bet. For the least vulnerable, they rarely hurt and they sometimes help.

    First things first. The flu shot is a dead virus. You can't get the flu from the flu shot. So many people believe otherwise that it is an oft-repeated urban myth that people routinely get the flu from the flu shot.

    Here's what really happens:

    If John Doe doesn't get a flu shot, nobody hears about it, even if he happens to catch a cold the same week. If John Doe gets a flu shot and stays healthy, nobody hears about it. But if John Doe gets a flu shot and happens to catch a cold the same week, or some other strain of flu, or he already had the strain that the shot handles, then everybody hears about it. "John Doe got the flu from his flu shot!"

    There is also a tiny chance that someone will have a bad reaction to the other "ingredients" in a flu shot. If this never happened to you before, it shouldn't be your concern now. A more reasonable concern is that you might have to stand in a line with strangers or wait in a waiting room at the doctor's office while other patients might sneeze or cough on you. It would be the same if you were waiting in line for ice cream, but it's a danger nevertheless.

    If you are healthy, want to avoid crowds, and think the flu vaccine supply is best used for people more in need than you, skipping the shot is a perfectly sensible choice. If you are in a riskier group or would rather be safe than sorry, by all means get it.

    And now that you know the facts, help your family members make the right choice too.
  7. sarae macrumors 6502

    Jul 14, 2004
    madison, WI
    I'm personally undecided about the whole flu shot thing myself, but my mother usually urges me to get one. Why? Because my brother is diabetic, and due to his lower immune system, he's much more likely to catch colds + the flu, and it affects him more than it would me. So I typically get it just to appease her, and to keep the risk of getting the flu and passing it on to him.

    Last year I went to get a flu shot, and instead wound up with the flu mist - where you basically inhale the flu. I'm not up on the differences between the two, but I think the mist is more of an active flu, because they warned me (after taking it) to not go to the hospital or go around people with lowered immune systems for a week.

    Probably a good idea, because two days later I came down with flu-like symptoms and was sick for awhile - not as bad as it could have been, however.
  8. rainman::|:| macrumors 603


    Feb 2, 2002
    Well, if I had a young child or elderly person in my care, I would be worried about it. But I don't think any healthy person, age 10-55, should bother getting them-- even if we have a full supply of vaccine. The primary reason it's pushed on the public is to decrease sick days and keep productivity, e.g. the GNP, high... the problem is that the flu virus normally mutates at a slow rate, because it can infect people for a long period of time before running out of hosts. Now, it has fewer hosts, so it will mutate faster and faster. And ladies and gentlemen, one of these days it'll mutate into a superflu, and we'll all be screwed. and when that happens, you can thank the folks out there that went for an injection instead of washing hands properly and using other virus-killing measures (which, if implemented on a large scale, would drastically slow the spread of the flu). And since every time you get sick, and fight it off, your immune system is stronger-- you're actually letting yourself weaken by not getting sick. Not that an immune system would help much against a superflu anyway, but...

    Babies and old people: should get the vaccine. Everyone else: wash your hands and don't touch phones with your mouth, etc. But you're not so damn important that you can't puke every once in a while :)

  9. wdlove macrumors P6


    Oct 20, 2002
    I have been getting the flu shot now for over 3 decades. While I was in the Air Force it was mandatory. Those in the medical field are also encouraged to get the flu shot. My wife is still in that category. In a normal year we are also in the at risk category, that is over 55 years of age. So I do have concerns about not receiving a flu shot. All I get from the shot is soreness at the injection site and maybe a headache. Which some Advil or Tylenol takes care of the symptoms. Now they are saying that more does will be available, so am hoping that I can bet the vaccine.
  10. Dros macrumors 6502

    Jun 25, 2003
    The flu virus has a greater chance of mixing with a related virus and producing a super virulent form if it has opportunities to interact with those related viruses. More hosts = more opportunities. Same with other mutations. The flu virus will mutate at the same rate, but more infections means more mutants produced, which means a greater chance of a mutation arising that will hurt us.

    Flu shots pushed on us for the sake of the GDP? That may influence things, but you could make the same argument about seat belts, and those are usually considered a good thing.
  11. King Cobra macrumors 603

    Mar 2, 2002
    Yummy...dead viruses and dead bacteria, one of my favorite once in a while meals, other than chocolate mousse.

    I don't recall ever getting a flu shot. I'm 19 and never had the flu. I breathe in cold air and am almost immune to it, unless it's seriously cold. Hot weather (i.e. 21ºC or more, 70ºF and up) is not my thing. So either I'm lucky to not get the flu, or I'm lucky to be more adopt enough to cold weather rather than hot weather so as to avoid the flu.
  12. pseudobrit macrumors 68040


    Jul 23, 2002
    Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
    As others have pointed out, most of your argument is not based on fact.

    The flu vaccine is like any other vaccine in that it requires you to be exposed to a weakened/dead virus.

    The vaccines are manufactured well in advance of flu season; there are various strains of the flu that make the rounds each year. Experts predict which strains are most likely to go around the next year and they use the top three in the vaccine.

    There are rare cases (mostly people with egg allergies) where an allergic reaction to the flu shot is possible.

    Four years ago, I skipped my flu shot. I got the flu and my lungs shut down. I was mere hours away from death, ended up in hospital for a week and didn't fully regain lung function for over a month. Pure Hell.
  13. Jovian9 macrumors 68000


    Feb 19, 2003
    Planet Zebes
    I believe that last year they had a problem with not catching all the strains of flu prior to creating the winter '03-'04 flu shot. In my opinion, unless you are younger or older, it is pointless to get a shot that cannot cover all strains of the flu. I would feel twice as bad if I got the flu but had the flu shot. I did have the flu last year and it laid me out for a whole week.....but I still will not get the shot. I do not want things in my system that do not need to be there......preventative medicine is not for me.
  14. James L macrumors 6502a

    Apr 14, 2004
    The validity of people getting the flu shot is without question solid. People with weakened immune systems do die from the flu, every season. When the flu shot is made it is based off of the most common strains of the flu expected in a given flu season. Healthy, young to late middle age people are not usually at risk (unless they have an autoimmune disease that has weakened their system), however they can carry the disease quite easily, often without getting sick, to those who are at risk.

    Where I live the shot is given away for free to every health care worker, teacher, child care worker, daycare worker, caregiver of the eldery, etc. Very few, if any, of these people would be at risk of a life threatening condition, however they daily work around those who could be (children under the age of 2, people with immunity compromise, the eldery), so they are vaccinated to prevent spread of the disease as much as anything else.

    You cannot get the flu from the flu shot, as mentioned above that is a wives tale. The basic concept behind vaccines, and the flu shot, is that they basically kill, or inactivate, the viral contents inside a flu "cell". They leave the cell intake, however, so its identifiable protein strands are still present on the outside of the cell. When a foreign presence (antigen) enters the body the body does 2 things... it attacks it with generic antibodies, while at the same time it studies this new foreign substance, its identifiable protein strands, etc. It then generates specific antibodies which will now remain in circulation throughout the body. The next time this substance enters the body these antigen specific antibodies immediately recognize, attack, and nulify the antigen.

    So, in essence, what they are injecting into you during a flu shot is a bunch of flu cells that have been destroyed on the inside, but remain intact on the outside so the immune system can recognize them and create antibodies for them.

    People do get sick after they have received a flu shot, but they would have gotten sick then anyways... it is usually just coincidence.

    Why get the flu shot if you are in your early years and are healthy? To stop it from spreading throughout society and infecting those who are at risk with lowered immune systems. Check out these numbers from the CDC:


    "Every year in the United States, approximately 36,000 people die from the flu."

    Now, would you be one of those people if you were health and 25...no. But, can you carry the virus to one of those 36,000.... yup! You are not just protecting yourself, you are doing damage control.


  15. Doctor Q Administrator

    Doctor Q

    Staff Member

    Sep 19, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Excellent post, James L. Please post it once a year at the start of flu season. :)
  16. janey macrumors 603


    Dec 20, 2002
    sunny los angeles
    the injected one uses dead viruses, the inhaled one uses weakened ones.
    the WHO predicts. Bah.

    You know what pisses me off majorly though
    experts have been warning about the shortages for years now.
    its the lack of people who get vaccines and the chance that company would lose money from unused flu shots that makes it unappealing to many people

    But guess what, this nation has spent way more money on ways to combat bioterrorism (mainly anthrax) than on purchasing flu vaccines from aventis pasteur and medimmune. wtf?
    i mean, if like 10-15% more people got the flu, then statistically the number of people who would die as a result or from a complication due to the flu this year because of a shortage of vaccines, which is unlikely to begin with, would be larger than the number of people who died on 9/11.

    Just an interesting point I saw in the LA Times a few days ago.
  17. pseudobrit macrumors 68040


    Jul 23, 2002
    Jobs' Spare Liver Jar
    But they don't all die in a collasping skyscraper, so no one gives a ****.

    Wyeth Labs, which I pass by on my way to work, used to make a ton of flu vaccine. They got out of it after one unprofitable year.

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