Should I Get a Flu Shot?
This is the most common question I have sent to me by various people. I even have folks coming to ask me if I would sign statements about how they shouldn’t get a flu shot. The world I live in, functional medicine, has many anxieties about influenza shots and has not been quiet in voicing their concerns. Hence, confusion and uncertainty.
My response: let’s looks at the evidence and be a scientist. First of all, does the flu shot cause autism? The answer is NO. Does it cause Guillian-Barre? I believe it does have a slight risk for doing that. I’ve even had a close friend get it, and be hospitalized in an ICU for a week with it.
How dangerous is influenza for us? That’s the rub. The CDC says there will be between 9 and 35 million casesof it this year, with 12-56,000 deaths. The mortality is directly linked to age, with infants and elderly being most vulnerable: infants because their immune system is immature and elderly because their immune system is waning.
There have been reports that the flu shot this year is only about 10% protective. The virus that got loose in Australia, that has it’s flu epidemic when we are having summer turned out to be nastier and more virulent than expected, and the pick of viruses contained in the flu shot, wasn’t quite the right mix. The CDC has vigorously refuted that saying that the flu shot has never been perfect at preventing the flu, what it prevents is DEATH. That’s why you want to get a flu shot.
Here is my take on it. It’s DEATH you are most interested in preventing. Influenza does something most viral syndromes don’t do. It stirs up your innate immunesystem. When this happens with influenza you get a “cytokine storm” that is like runaway dominoes. The severe epidemic of influenza in the 1918-19 era was reported to have killed people in 12 hours. Young men, fresh of the plains of Kansas, coming from isolated communities where they had never had influenza before, died in just hours. Their lungs filled up with fluid and they drowned in their own congestion. Remote communities, like the Innuit in Alaska, were wiped out. That’s what influenza can do, and has done every 30 years for millennia. Regular flu feels like that, in mini form. Your lungs feel full. You have trouble breathing. You have a risk of getting pneumonia. But your immune system can limit the runaway “storm”.
Why? Because we, all of us, the collective human race, started getting flu shots. For 50 years now, we have been getting flu shots. When you get a shot, you get immunity to that particular strain of influenza, both A and B that will last you for 4-10 years to that strain. And that immunity overlaps enough with others to help you in other seasons,
Here is the devil in the details. The influenza virus is able to mutate every year and come back again. Your immune system can’t see it clearly. We have been waiting expectantly for another vicious epidemic, much like in 1918. But it doesn’t come. Why, we have to ask, why has this scourge not recurred, like it did for thousands of years? It’s because we are all getting flu shots, and the residual immunity doesn’t allow the cytokine storm to overrun us.
Should I get a flu shot. Darn right. Will it protect me from this years flu? Maybe, maybe not. Will you be around to complain about i? Yes. That’s the point.
Practicing emergency department physicians will point out to you that every year they are crushed during the flu season. Not from flu only. The frail elderly come in with strokes, heart attacks, pneumonia, kidney failure, failure to thrive, congestive heart failure – in droves. You name it. The ER is jammed pack. Do they have the flu? Can’t tell. You know they are sick. You know the hospital is full. You know it’s happening concurrent with half the ER staff being sick with the flu.
WWW.What will work for me. I get a flu shot every year. I’m over 65 so I get the heavy duty one for “frail elderly”. And, I take Vitamin D faithfully. Good evidence that taking D and getting a flu shot is synergistic (roughly 50% extra). And, I wash my hands, wash my hand, wash my hands.
- Getting a flu shot protects me completely from the flu? T or F Answer: False, false, false. Polio, small pox etc all are 100%. Flu keeps mutating. Even with that, it’s still only a 50% reduction in even getting it.
- What the heck am I getting it for? Answer: So that you don’t die. In that regard, maybe as much as 95% reduction.
- But I don’t see people dying of the flu. What on earth are you talking about? Answer: people don’t look like they are dying from the flu. But they are. The cytokine storm that flu sets off makes every underlying disease worse. Your death certificate will say “heart attack” but that crafty flu virus that was in you at the time is rubbing his greedy hands together with glee, cause he got another good one.
- What is a cytokine storm? Answer: It’s your innate immune system with dominos falling hyperbolically – accelerating faster and faster. Flu, uniquely sets that off when the pandemics come to town. It sets it off mildly with regular flu.
- Explain to me why we haven’t had a pandemic now for over 50 years when we used to have them every 30 years since time began? Answer: because the whole world has been getting flu shots, and damping down that cytokine storm this year with this years flu shot, so that next year it doesn’t run away from us. Got it?