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Ask Dr. Michael — About The Flu Shot

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Flu Season

Getting A Flu Shot This Season?

As flu season approaches I often get asked, “Should I get a flu shot?” I always consider each person’s case individually, but there are some general guidelines I can offer. First let’s review the facts about the flu vaccine.

The success rate of the flu vaccine over the past couple of years is about 60%. That means the shot was successful in preventing or limiting a case of the flu in about 60% of the people who received the vaccine. Why isn’t the shot more effective?

One reason is that the vaccine is composed of dead or inactive flu virus from the previous year. Each year flu strains change, which makes prior vaccines less effective because they don’t respond the same way to a different flu strain. Additionally, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from person to person, so it is difficult to predict whether you will personally benefit from the shot.

Some people experience side effects from the shot. If you are allergic to the flu shot or to eggs, or if you have Guillain-Barré Syndrome, you should not get the shot.

A nasal flu vaccine is available, which is comprised of live flu strains from the prior flu season. There is greater risk with this live virus vaccine, so you should consult your primary doctor if you are considering a nasal flu vaccine. This vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women or for people over 50 or under 2 years old.

According to the Center for Disease Control, it isn’t possible to get the flu from the flu shot because the virus in the shot is already dead. However, I have seen many cases over the years where someone contracted a case of the flu or a cold within a few days to 2 weeks of receiving the flu shot. One possible explanation for this is that, for some people, their immune system may be temporarily weakened by the flu shot, leaving them more susceptible to infection during the first 2 weeks. This just proves that people don’t respond the same way to the same dosage of flu vaccine.

Here are my general guidelines on whether to get a flu shot this season:

For an elderly person who is weak enough that a bad case of flu could potentially put them in the hospital, I recommend the flu shot. Even though the vaccine is not as effective in people over 65 years of age, older people are also more at risk of a serious illness from getting the flu. This risk should be factored into their decision to receive the shot.

I generally do not recommend the flu vaccine for those who are young with a healthy immune system and are at little or no risk of hospitalization.

Everyone Else
Everyone else in the middle of the age spectrum falls into the “gray” area of deciding whether they should get a flu shot or not. Some people believe they benefit from the vaccine and don’t hesitate to get it each year, while others who often get side effects from other drugs shy away from taking a shot they don’t think they need. For those in this group who choose not to get the flu shot, I recommend they find an alternative way to strengthen their immune resistance against the flu.

One of the best and safest defenses to the flu is found in Chinese herbal medicine. Based on an ancient herbal formula, Jade Windscreen is a natural way to build your immune response. It is effective for both young and old, and can safely be used all flu season long. Jade Windscreen is available from our Online Store and is on sale from now until the end of October using the promotional code in this month’s Acupuncture and Holistic Health Center newsletter.

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