10.10.2014

Flu Shots and Why I don't get them

Hi everyone!  I wanted to write a quick post about flu shots, as it seems to be about that season.  At my work, our health insurance offers flu shots to anyone who wants them for free.  So if they are free, why don't I participate, you might ask.  Good question!

Ok, this is NOT a post to try to guilt anyone into getting or not getting a flu shot.  I just thought I would present my personal reasons for not getting one in case anyone could identify with me and make a more conscious decision for themselves whether or not to get the flu vaccine.  It should be noted that I am not a health care professional, but have done research in understanding how vaccines work and have my own opinions as a result of that research.  I encourage all others to be active learners when it comes to their own health, and to please consult a physician as necessary.

Often times when I ask people why they get a flu shot, they give me reasons like "well, just because I always do", "doesn't everyone?", and "because it was free, so why not?".  I don't know about you, but I would like to make more educated decisions about my body and what goes into it than just saying "why not?".

I have never gotten a flu shot in my life (nor do I ever plan on getting one), and I can probably count the times I have had the flu on one hand, give or take.  All of the times I had the flu, I was a child or teenager and was in school, where sharing germs is as regular as sharing homework answers.  Often times, as my mom would undoubtedly well remember, my two older brothers and I would catch the flu from each other and result in a household of passing around the flu for a week or two.

First off, now I am 24 and I haven't had the flu since I was in high school.  Even when I was in college and the swine flu was spreading like wildfire around my campus, I didn't get so much as an upset stomach.  When I'm going on the better part of a decade not having the flu, I don't see why I would want to get the shot.  It would be like loading extra air into your car tires unnecessarily because you got a flat tire once.

Secondly, each year's flu shot is designed to protect against the "most likely" flu virus strains of the year as predicted by CDC (Center for Disease Control) research.  So what happens if an uncommon flu virus springs up (such as the swine flu in 2009)?  It doesn't matter if you have the flu shot or not, you're just as vulnerable as everyone else.  From the CDC:

"How effective is the flu vaccine?  How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent flu illness) can range widely from season to season. [...] During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it’s possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness. However, even during years when the vaccine match is very good, the benefits of vaccination will vary across the population, depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine was used."

So if the vaccine isn't well match for the year, "tough sh*t", and even if it is well matched it might not work for you for a multitude of reasons.  If a vaccine has such ambiguity surrounding its effectiveness, why would you want to put a foreign matter in your body with the ability to affect your immune system in any way?

Thirdly, I believe in relying more on your own immune system than in medicines and vaccines.  I am a firm believer that the best thing we can do for the immune system is to give your body whole, nutritious plant foods and let it do its job.  I don't like to get in my immune system's way of trying to take care of me.

Even if I do get sick with a common cold, I don't throw cold and cough medicine down my throat.  I make sure to load up on more veggies and drink plenty of water, as well as clean common surfaces and change my bedding daily.  For an extra immunity boost, I like to get a couple of oranges and munch on those for some added Vitamin C.  I did just that with my cold I had on Monday and found that most of the bothersome symptoms were gone in a day, and I feel back to normal today (Friday).

Lastly, I don't find myself to be a high-risk individual for contracting the flu virus.  I work in an office at a personal desk, so I rarely share germs with others.  I have good hygiene habits, especially in public places (i.e. washing my hands and not touching public surfaces and then touching my mouth, eyes, nose).  I rarely, if ever am in contact with the elderly or young children, so I wouldn't have the risk of passing a virus on to someone more vulnerable.  I eat a diet filled with immune-supporting foods, rather than the Standard American Diet filled with immune-limiting foods.

With all of that being said, please remember to use your own judgement with your body and what you decide to put into it.  I am happy to hear others' opinions that are presented in a constructive and respectful manner, so please leave comments if you would like to add to the conversation.  Any and all offensive comments will be removed.

Editor's Note: I thought this article was interesting that came out later this flu season.

Health and Happiness,

Amy

6 comments:

  1. Just have to say that you don't know when you are in contact with the vulnerable. It isn't just the elderly and young. Many people, myself included, suffer from chronic illnesses that either weaken our immune system or have to take immunosuppresant drugs to keep them in check. See all those Humira commercials that treat everything from diabetic nerve pain, to crohn's and colitis, to psoriasis? That is an immunosuppresant. You have no idea who around you may be on that or one of the many other immunosuppresent drugs cause we look just like everyone else.

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    1. Hi, and thanks for your comment. When I said that I wasn't in contact with vulnerable individuals, I meant that I am not in a position where I provide close contact aid to those with weakened immune systems like the elderly, children, or those on immunosuppressants. I don't work in a health-care or a daycare/school environment.

      That being said, I realize that there are others who may be on immunosuppressants that I am unaware of and may cross paths with day to day. I would hope that those individuals, including yourself, would take the necessary precautions to protect yourself in all situations and environments regardless of who may have gotten the flu vaccine any given year.

      Personally, I take the necessary steps to protect myself from catching any illness, which in turn may protect others. However, those precautions do not include a flu vaccine because of my reasonings above. If I were to catch the flu, I would of course stay home and limit my contact with others until it has passed. In the end, I like to live my life without medicines or drugs because I believe our food will protect and nourish our bodies.

      When I was a teenager, my dad had an autoimmune kidney disease when he was on immunosuppressants, so I know exactly what they are. I remember him taking extra steps to reduce his risk of catching any sort of illnesses, such as staying well hydrated, washing his hands and common surfaces frequently, etc. He, of course, kept his distance from us as needed when we were sick, but he would never have asked us to get a flu shot.

      In the end, we all have to use our own judgements of what is right for our bodies, but to still be mindful, whether we do get the flu vaccine or not, to be sanitary to prevent the spread of not only the flu, but other viruses such as the common cold.

      Thanks for reading,

      Amy

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  2. I never miss a flu shot. I have been getting them since I was a young adult and I am now 69 (soon to be 70). I don't get the flu as a result. My grown children, and grandchildren get them as well and one of my daughter's in law is an RN. I agree it is a personal preference but for me and my family, it has worked well. For many years, the vaccines have not contained the live flu virus, so one does not even get a mild flu symptom after taking a shot. Just a little soreness in the arm muscle. Thanks for letting me comment. Diane

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    1. Hi Diane, Thank you so much for your comment. I agree, it is definitely a personal choice for everyone and their families. That's great if getting the flu shot has kept you out of the virus' harms way!
      It frustrates me when others scoff at my choice in not getting one for my own reasons, but in the end, it is our own personal decisions about our bodies and no one elses. Just as I would never judge anyone for getting or not getting one, I would expect others to show the same respect towards me.
      Thanks for your input!
      Amy

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  3. I get the flu shot every year, but my fiance never does. I support your decision not to get one, but I disagree with your analogy about the air in the tires. I think getting a flu shot is more like carrying a spare tire just in case your tire goes flat. Even if you drive safely and avoid roads with lots of debris and keep your tires properly inflated, you still might get a flat someday. Just because you have never gotten a flat does not mean you will never get one in the future. I eat healthy. plant-based food everyday, too, and in general I do not like to take medicines, but I do get the flu shot, My fiance is a lot like you and does not think adding foreign materials to our bodies is necessary to protect us. I can see both points of view, but I prefer to practice "defense in depth." Thank you for sharing!

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  4. I never ever get a flu shot! Pam Popper has great info on it that may interest you - check her out on youtube.

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