It’s that time of year again – just after Labor Day when Flu Season begins! Flu shots are in stock in my office, most chain pharmacies and starting to make the rounds at companies that offer them to their employees. It is also the time of year when I explain to many a worried patient that you CAN NOT get the flu from the flu shot.
There are several myths about flu shots and vaccines in general – that persist because people with loud voices propagate falsehoods despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Perhaps it is, as was recently written in the Wall Street Journal that people today, especially parents of young children, have never seen the consequences of the diseases vaccines prevent.
Some facts about the flu
- Influenza is a virus spread like any other cold
- You can be contagious about 1 day before you get sick, and for 4-7 days after
- Anywhere from 5-20% of the US population gets the flu each year
- About 200,000 people are hospitalized each year from the flu
- In 2009, we saw the first new flu virus without a vaccine – H1N1 or “Swine Flu”
- 60.8 million people in the US were infected
- Almost 275,000 people were hospitalized
- 12,469 people died from H1N1 flu that year – when no vaccine was available
- Those most severely affected were pregnant women and children
- When the vaccine was introduced the following year, rates returned to normal
Some facts about the flu shot:
- You can not get the flu from the flu shot
- Flu vaccines do not contain dangerous preservatives
- Flu shots (or other vaccines) do not cause autism
- Flu shots decrease hospitalization due to the flu by 70%
So where did the myths come from?
- The flu shot is made from killed flu virus, and a mix of 3 or 4 different strains of the viral components
- Because the viral components are killed, they can not cause an infection
- The vaccine stimulates the immune system which can cause a mild fever, congestion and body aches
- If you have a cold when you get the vaccine, this reaction can be stronger
- Vaccines used to contain a preservative called thimerosal, but have not for years, which contained mercury, although the quantity was much less than your average can of tuna
- No study of any vaccine has been linked to autism – the only study that showed that position was retracted for falsifying data and the physician who wrote the study stripped of his medical license. I reviewed this information in an early post about the HPV vaccine
What do I advise my patients?
I offer the flu shot to all my patients. I highly recommend it for all my patients over 65, pregnancy women and those with young children in the house. In addition, anyone with a weaker immune system, such as diabetics, or asthmatics who are at higher risk of lung complications should get a flu shot every year.
The flu causes people to miss work (this is why employers have flu shots in the office), children to miss school, and unnecessary misery. The flu feels worse than any cold – with fever, cough and severe body aches. It feels like you’ve been hit by a Mack truck – and it can be prevented.
Don’t believe the hype, get your flu shot – I’m getting mine – and its much more pleasant in the office when you get your shot than when you come to see me because you are sicker than you’ve ever felt!
The path to wellness begins with a proper diagnosis
In 2006, a new vaccine was introduced in the US – a vaccine for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). This virus is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer, some throat, penile and anal cancers, as well as genital warts. The vaccine is effective against the 4 strains of HPV that cause the majority of cervical cancer and genital warts. It is given as a series of 3 shots over a 6 month time period, and is approved for females and males, ages 11-26. There are two brands of vaccine, Gardisil and Cervarix, currently FDA approved in the US. Recently, there has been a lot of media attention to HPV vaccines, leading to a lot of confusion about what the vaccine does and how safe it is. As the father of a 12 year old girl, I thought I’d share my views and research.
What is HPV?
What is the controversy?
How does this affect us?
- 13,000 – 20,000 people a year, mostly children, in the US would contract polio, requiring braces, crutches, wheelchairs and breathing machines
- Almost everyone in the US would get measles, 20% of whom would need to be hospitalized, and 450 would die per year in the US, and 2.7 million worldwide
- Haemophilous Influenzae (Hib) would cause 20,000 cases of meningitis or epiglottis in the US, killing 600 people per year. About 1 in 200 children under 5 would be infected, and those that survive are often left deaf, with seizures or mental impairments
- Almost all children would contract whooping cough, with about 9000 deaths per year
- Pneumococcus would infect 63,000 Americans yearly, killing 10% of those infected
- Rubella, while mild in most children and adults, causes birth defects in 90% of children whose mothers got infected while pregnant, causing heart defects, deafness, cataracts and mental retardation
- Mumps would infect 300,000 people a year, and causes deafness in about 6% of cases. It also caused miscarriages in women infected while pregnant
- Hepatitis, Diptheria, Tetanus and Chickenpox are all diseases with potential long term consequences that we are preventing with vaccines
The path to wellness begins with a proper diagnosis