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Debunking the flu shot myth

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By Jason Babcock

Flu shots have been a source of extreme controversy ever since it was discovered that we could vaccinate for influenza. Much of the controversy originates from how flu shots are created and what we are actually injecting ourselves with. There have been various “myths” buzzing around that accuse the flu shot of actually causing influenza to people who receive them and that the shot can lead to autism in children.

Jamie Vroman, a clinical services pharmacist for Meijer’s northern region said flu shots are intended to prepare the body to fight the flu.

U.S. flu vaccination rates

“The flu shot is an antigen which causes the body to create anti-bodies to help fight the flu once your exposed,” Vroman said.

Influenza antigens are inactive influenza virus particles. The body senses a threat, and responds to it by producing antibodies. Vroman also said that it is actually impossible for the flu shot to cause the flu, because the particles are inactive antigens.

Michelle Olszewski, a nursing professor at Grand Rapids Community College agrees.

“The myth that flu shots can cause the flu is false,” Olszewski said. “You don’t inject enough to make you ill, but enough to develop antibodies to fight these strains.”

Vroman also put the allegations about flu shots and autism to rest. The source of the autism allegation stems from a preservative called thimerosal, which at one point had been used in children’s flu vaccines. Thimerosal was reduced to trace amounts or removed completely in 2001 following these allegations. The Center for Disease Control responded to these allegations with various studies all stating that there was no relationship between thimerosal and autism development in children.

The CDC does extensive research to decide which flu strains are going to ravage the population, and then they use the strains to make the antigens for the influenza vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months should get vaccinated against the influenza virus. Vroman also said that children and the elderly tend to get a more severe case of the flu because their immune systems are not developed enough, or that they are older and their immune systems are not as strong as they used to be.

“People should speak to their physician, but after getting clearance everyone should be immunized,” Olszewski said.

Vroman said that your body takes up to two weeks to fully protect itself from influenza once you receive the vaccination, so getting it early is very important.

There was one warning from Vroman. Flu shots are grown in eggs, and that someone with a severe egg allergy can sometimes have a reaction.

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