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“Flu Season most often peaks between December and March, but activity can occur as late as May” says Dr. Dan Jernigan, Director of the Influenza Division at The Center for Disease Control. For most people, the flu means having some combination of fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy noses, achy muscles, fatigue and days in bed.

Flu Vaccination Efficacy for Hospitalized patients

A 2017 CDC study showed that the flu vaccine reduced deaths, ICU admissions and length of stay among hospitalized flu patients. The CDC reports less than ½ of the US population received the flu vaccine in 2017. They estimate that if 5% more had been vaccinated, an additional 504,000 illnesses, 233,000 doctor’s visits and 6000 hospitalizations could have been prevented. These are significant numbers. You can read the entire article here.

Opposing Views on Vaccines

There are controversies surrounding vaccines in general and the flu vaccine in particular. The debate includes possible links to autism, actual effectiveness and potential risks or side effects. Age, ingredients, suppressed or compromised systems and conditions such as pregnancy are all reasons to research your personal decision to vaccinate or not.

The actress, Jennie McCarthy is the spokesperson for Generation Rescue, an anti-vaccination movement that blames childhood vaccinations for her son’s autism. Although this is now believed to have been a misdiagnosis, given that his symptoms are more consistent with Laudau-Kleffner syndrome, groups like Generation Rescue continue to blame autism on vaccines. The ingredient thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative, has been blamed for causing neurological disorders. Since 1999, all routine vaccines for children under the age of 6 are available without thimerosal. This preservative is still used and the FDA has produced a comprehensive document including a list of  the multi-dose flu vaccine vials which do contain thimerosal. There are no reputable studies linking thimerosal and autism.

Flu Vaccine for Healthcare Workers

A side note to the question of age is the appropriateness of the flu vaccine for healthcare workers. Most institutions make them available but requiring vaccinations is a bit more problematic. It interesting that about 90% of the 80,000 deaths recorded in the 2017-18 flu season were people over 65. Staff at long-term care facilities had the lowest vaccination rate (about 1/3) of any healthcare group. “While 3 out of 4 healthcare workers (overall) are getting vaccinated, I’m embarrassed to say that coverage is still lowest among some subsets of our healthcare workers (long-term care staff) who often work with patients we know are at the highest risk for the complications of flu,“ said Jerome Adams, M.D. US Surgeon General. He went on to say it is important for “employers to take action to protect their staff from flu to reduce absences and reduce the chances of their employees spreading the flu to others.” Full article here.

Seasonal Flu Vaccine Effectiveness

Research has shown the flu vaccine has had a 40% success rate the past 2 seasons. The 2018-19 flu vaccines have been updated for this season based on what is believed to match the current influenza outbreak. Ultimately, we are responsible to know what we are putting into our bodies, be it nourishment or chemicals. It is important to be health conscious, whether it is diet habits, processed foods, fitness regimes and other aspects of our health. The same can be said of vaccines. The decision to receive a flu vaccine is a personal choice. Everyone needs to do their own research on ingredients and possible side effects and weigh that against the possibility of getting the flu.