Facts on Influenza Vaccine (Flu Shot) Types and Side Effects

should you get the flu shot ecokaren

I’m sure you’ve noticed these signs everywhere…”Get Flu Shots Here” or “FREE Flu Shots Here”. I saw a sign even at a bank in my neighborhood recently.

As a Chiropractor, I could never ‘advise’ my patients about the flu vaccine. It was not in my scope of practice. But personally – from what I learned about vaccines – I never got a flu shot or had my family get them. Chiropractic philosophy is all about letting the body heal with its innate abilities. We have all the system we need to protect against any disease, as long as we are in “tip top” shape with properly aligned spine from regular spinal adjustments. Of course, we have to eat right and exercise regularly too. And ironically, have you noticed that you only get sick when your “guard” is down?  So why would we need the flu shots when we are healthy to begin with? (Update: There have been cases of healthy people dying of the flu in 2014 but very rare and still no clear information as to what underlying diseases those people suffered from)

But to be objective, here are the facts about the influenza vaccine so you could make an informative decision for you and your family.

What is Influenza or the Flu?

What are symptoms of the flu? You may feel some or all of the following:

  • Fever
  • Chilles
  • Sore Throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle ache
  • Tiredness
  • Some children might have vomiting and diarrhea.

Most experts say Flu viruses spread by air and touch when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. The droplets can contaminate people who are nearby. It’s rare a person get the flu by touching a surface that an infected person touched. The tough thing about the Flu is that you may be contagious before you know you are sick. And of course, when you are sick, you are highly contagious. Young children, elderly, and immunocompromised population are more susceptible to the flu since their immune system is fragile. Unless you work in a health care environment or are exposed to a large crowd of people constantly, healthy adult should not worry about being infected with the flu. But that’s just my opinion.

Is flu dangerous?

Flu symptoms can be mild or serious. In mild cases, a person can recover in days but in serious cases, a person can get Pneumonia, dehydration, and even die from the flu. According to Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Between 1976 and 2006, estimated deaths in the United States from the flu ranged from about 3,000 during the mildest season to 49,000 during the most severe season.”

But we don’t know what kind of ‘state’ these patients were in before they contracted the flu. Were they healthy adults or were they young children, elderly, or immunocompromised? The report doesn’t say.

Facts about flu vaccine

Like I said, I have never gotten a flu shot in my life. But I know someone who almost died from getting a flu shot. In fact, he had to quit medical school (it was a requirement to get a flu shot to attend medical school) because he became really ill. But on the other side of the token, I also don’t know how many people didn’t get the flu because they received the flu vaccine. That data will never be available since how can you test everyone who received the flu vaccine to see if they would have gotten the flu without the flu shot. Human study results are hard to obtain with cases like these.

But here is the real deal. According to CDC,

It’s not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season. Flu viruses are constantly changing (called “antigenic drift”) – they can change from one season to the next or they can even change within the course of one flu season. Experts must pick which viruses to include in the vaccine many months in advance in order for vaccine to be produced and delivered on time. Because of these factors, there is always the possibility of a less than optimal match between circulating viruses and the viruses in the vaccine. CDC analyzes influenza viruses that are circulating each season to see whether they are like the viruses included in that season’s vaccine.

So basically, there is no guarantee that the vaccine has the strain of virus that’s needed to protect me from? And I’ll be putting those ‘uncertain’ ingredients of the vaccine in my body but it’s not going to guarantee my not getting the flu because the “specific” virus strain might not match the current seasonal strain?

Hmmm….that’s not a good way for me to gamble with my health, is it?

Here are some of the Ingredients in Vaccines

As per CDC:

  • Eggs (from chicken eggs)
  • Thimerosal (Preservative in multiple doses of flu vaccine. A controversial preservative that is no longer being used in children’s vaccines in fear of causing Autism)
  • Formaldehyde (carcinogen, by the way)
  • Aluminum salt
  • Sulfur from Penicillin or other sulfa drugs (antibiotics being used during processing the vaccines)

Two NEW Available Vaccines for 2014

This year, two new flu vaccines are available: Flucelvax® and Flublok®. Flucelvax® is a Flu A and Flu B vaccine produced using cultured “mammalian” animal cells instead of fertilized chicken eggs. According to its description, it provided ONLY 50% protection against influenza A in a study in 2007-2008. Flublok® is made using recombinant techniques and also does not use eggs, and contains no preservatives (thimerosal), antibiotics or adjuvants. The efficacy rate was estimated to be 44.8%.

There are a myriad of older vaccines available too and it’s important that you check to see which vaccine you are getting since some are made from chick eggs and not from animal cells like the two new ones above. Check the full list HERE.

I don’t know about you but these rates of successes do not impress me at all. Only 50% efficacy and recombinant DNA from some animal cells being injected in me with no long term studies to show any side effects from the vaccine? Makes me doubtful even more.

Side Effects of the Flu Shot

According to CDC, “The viruses in the flu shots are either killed (inactivated) or recombinant (don’t contain virus particles), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot.”

However, side effects from a flu vaccine can include:

  • Pain at the injection site,
  • Redness
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Joint pain
  • Nausea
  • Headache,
  • Myalgia,
  • Fatigue
  • Malaise

Serious complications include as per National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC),

  • Brain inflammation
  • Convulsions
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Limb paralysis
  • Neuropathy
  • Shock
  • Wheezing/asthma and other breathing problems.
  • Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a disabling neurological disorder that involves temporary or permanent paralysis that can lead to death and has been causally related to influenza vaccinations.

As of July 2012, there have been more than 84,000 reports of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following influenza vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including over 1,000 related deaths and over 1,600 cases of GBS.

So, CDC wants me to get a flu shot so I don’t ‘get’ the flu but I might feel these flu-like symptoms after getting the shot? What’s the difference if it’s not really called a ‘flu’ but you have similar symptoms anyway as result of getting the flu shot?

Who Shouldn’t Get Vaccinated

According to CDC following people should NOT get the flu vaccine:

  • People who have had a severe (life-threatening) allergy or reaction to a previous flu vaccine should not be vaccinated.
  • People who have an allergy to eating eggs should discuss flu vaccination with their doctor.
  • In 1976, swine influenza vaccine was associated with an elevated risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), therefore, CDC now warns against anyone who’s had GBS to not receive the flu vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely ill with or without fever should usually wait until they recover before getting flu vaccine.

And if you are not sure if you should be vaccinated because of certain ingredients in the vaccine, you can check this ingredient calculator to see which vaccine has below or above the EPA limits of certain chemicals for your body. When I used the calculator, it told me which type of vaccine had above the EPA limits of Mercury for me and it allowed me to print it out. One drawback to the calculator was it didn’t have ALL the available vaccines for this year.

Is CDC Vaccine Marketing Agency?

According to a Peter Doshi, a Postdoctoral Fellow from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine interviewed in British Medical Journal, he believes CDC is engaging in unnecessary “disease mongering”, vaccine marketing campaign that puts fear in people to be vaccinated for conditions that are not life threatening. Doshi also stated that “All influenza is “flu,” but only one in six “flus” might be influenza.” This might explain why not all “flu shots” work! Doshi also “argues that the vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated”, according to BMJ.

It seems to be that ‘selling’ flu vaccines is a huge industry where you can get them anywhere, even at banks now, and more people get the flu shot, more money big pharma makes money. And what better way to get the CDC, a public health agency, involved in making people get scared about the ‘possibility’ of dying without the vaccine?

I don’t buy it. But that’s just me.

How to prevent catching the Flu?

Here are just some of the ways I make sure my family does not catch the flu.

  • Wash hands often.
  • Eat whole foods and avoid processed foods.
  • Exercise regularly and sleep at least 8 hours a night.
  • Take supplements daily, especially, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, and two weeks of Echinacea a month or when they are stressed (exam periods) or feeling run down.
  • Stay away from sick people. Simple, right?
  • Open the window and get fresh air.

Click HERE for more in depth ways to prevent flu or colds naturally.

Google Flu Trends Map

Here is a “fun” Google map of what the current flu trend is like. Call me a naive grump but why is the map necessary? Just in case you want to visit Wyoming in January and you want to see what the flu epidemic is like in that state? Anyway, take a look at this map and see how the flu season is right now compared to the prior years. You can also select the world to see how other countries are doing, just in case you are traveling abroad.

How do you keep your family from getting the flu?

Here is my disclaimer:  I am not a medical doctor; I am a Chiropractic Physician. This is my own ‘personal’ analysis and my own opinion, not as a medical doctor.  You have to make informed decisions based on data and facts for you and your family. My opinion should not be a substitute for medical advice from a healthcare practitioner.

NOTE: The information in this post is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Dr. Karen disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information. Opinions and statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The information is for general consumer understanding and education, and should not be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice and it is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. I am not your doctor and you should consult with a qualified health care professional on any matter relating to their health and well being on one-on-one basis with thorough physical examination. Dr. Karen encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional. Products Dr. Karen recommends and their properties have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using the products. For more info, visit the Disclaimer page.