Flu season is here. And like any flu seasons there is a hot debate between those who are pro-vaccine and those who are anti-vaccine. To help make an informed decision here is everything you need to know about getting vaccinated.
Vaccines are used to boost your immune system and prevent serious, life-threatening diseases. They work by “training” your body to defend itself when certain germs or bacteria invade.
- They expose you to a very small amount of viruses or bacteria that have been weakened or killed.
- Your immune system then learns to recognize and attack the infection if you are exposed to it later in life.
- As a result, you will not become ill, or you may have a milder infection.
There are four types of vaccines available:
- Live virus vaccines: These use a weakened form of the virus (examples include the chickenpox vaccine and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine).
- Killed (inactivated) vaccines: These are made from a protein or other small pieces that are taken from a virus or bacteria (example, the flu vaccine).
- Toxoid vaccines: These contain a toxin or chemical made by the bacteria or virus. You become immune to the harmful effects of the infection; instead of to the infection itself (examples include the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines).
- Biosynthetic vaccines: These contain manmade substances that are very similar to pieces of the virus or bacteria example, the Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type B) conjugate vaccine).
Many on the anti-vaccine side are concerned about how safe vaccines are, especially for children. There is debate as to whether or not vaccines are linked to autism or other medical problems. The preservatives used in vaccines, primarily thimerosal, also caused many to question the safety of vaccinations. Today, thimerosal is rarely used in vaccines. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Institute of Medicine all conclude that the benefits of vaccines outweigh their risks. Their conclusion is widely based on the following:
- Only one third of flu shots still have thimerosal.
- No other vaccines commonly used for children or adults contain thimerosal.
- Research done over many years has not shown any link between thimerosal and autism, or other medical problems.
The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccines for everyone 6 months of age and older. This is the first step in protecting against the flu. According to the CDC’s website, “people should get vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”
If you decide not to get the flu vaccine or wish to take extra precautions after getting the vaccine, you can take preventive actions like avoiding sick people and washing your hands to reduce the spread of germs. If you do happen to get the flu this season, stay home from work or school to prevent spreading it to others.
Antiviral medication can be prescribed to treat the flu, but is usually reserved for those with the highest risk of complications from the flu. This includes children younger than 2 years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, people with certain medical conditions, and people who are hospitalized due to the flu.
If you do decide the flu vaccine is right for you, the vaccine is offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as some employers and even some schools.
If you’re in the United States, you can visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find locations near you offering the flu vaccine.
Learn more about vaccines from A.D.A.M.’s responsive Wellness Tools located within our SmartEngage product. If you have more questions ask a doctor. If you are interested in licensing our content, please contact us.