Please, please, please just get your damn flu shot
by Katelyn Cody
It’s the dead of winter, folks, and you know what that means: snow that melts within twenty minutes of it falling, the lack of motivation to get out of bed in the morning (ok that’s every season, but it’s worse in the winter), and the flu. You have probably seen announcements going around using scary words like “epidemic” and “health advisory.” And that isn’t unwarranted; the flu is a serious illness. So, I am here to say, please, dear lord, get the flu vaccine.
So far there have been more than 60,000 reported cases of the flu for the 2017-2018 season and there have been 37 reported pediatric deaths so far. The CDC has classified the flu status in every state, except Hawaii, as “widespread” (the highest on the scale). With the illness so prevalent in our society and the number of reported cases growing every day, it seems like common sense that we would not be able to combat this illness with hand washing and covering our mouths alone. That is where vaccines come in. They train our body’s immune system to fight off infections and keep us from getting sick.
Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But vaccines have horrible chemicals in them!” or “They make you sick!” Yes, there are side effects, which are extremely common and relatively harmless, such as the redness and swelling you notice on your arm after getting a shot. There is the possibility of feeling ill after receiving a vaccine, but it is incredibly rare. And, in regard to all of those “chemicals,” there is an extremely miniscule amount of thimerosal (a mercury-based preservative) in flu vaccines that come in multi-dose vials. It prevents germs, and according to the CDC, there is no evidence of it causing side effects any more harmful than the redness and swelling at the injection site. So there is no reason to believe that the government is trying to poison you with the flu vaccine.
There are some people who make the argument that we should not have to get vaccines because our bodies’ immune systems are meant to fight off infections naturally. Well, infections mutate and oftentimes our bodies are not equipped to fight off the new strain and therefore need a boost from vaccines. This season’s vaccine has been updated to protect against three strains of the flu.
But wait, there’s more. By getting the flu vaccine you aren’t just protecting yourself from a week or more of sickness and even hospitalization, you’re also protecting all of the people you come into contact with. This is called herd immunity; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has started calling it “community immunity” because everything sounds a lot more fun when it rhymes. The more people who get vaccinated, the harder it is for the disease to spread, and therefore fewer people will get infected. It’s a win-win situation (unless you don’t care about other people, in which case I suggest you move to Mars where there aren’t any humans or preventable diseases to worry about). Herd immunity is also extremely important because there are people who can’t get the flu vaccine. Babies less than six months old cannot receive the vaccine and people with suppressed immune systems (such as people with HIV or those receiving chemotherapy treatments) should talk to their doctor before considering the live vaccine.
During this time of year, the Anti-Vaccine Movement rears its ugly head, shouting about how if you allow your baby to get vaccinated they will develop autism. I have some choice words for these people, none of which are nice. And in case you were so blissfully unaware, that study conducted by Andrew Wakefield that claimed the MMR vaccine causes autism was discredited and he lost his license to practice medicine. In fact, it was even determined that much of the “data” he collected was falsified and his experiment was in violation of many ethics rules. Yet there are many people who still believe this claim and have in turn decided to forego all vaccinations.
One of the most upsetting aspects of the Anti-Vaccine Movement is the idea that all of these people would rather expose their children to the possibility of dying from an easily preventable disease than have a child on the autism spectrum or have some other type of disability that crazy people think is caused by vaccines. This sends a negative message to the special needs community and makes them think that their lives aren’t valued. All children are a gift, regardless of their abilities, and it is up to the parents and greater community to protect them from diseases like the flu.
So please, get vaccinated, especially this flu season. Make sure your loved ones get vaccinated too. We can thank vaccines for the fact that we don’t have to worry about diseases like polio or smallpox, and while it’s unlikely that we will eradicate the flu through vaccines, we can put our minds at ease knowing that fewer people are dying from it.
(The author had a ridiculous number of tabs from the CDC website open while writing this article.)