Why You Should Get Your Flu Shot

Why You Should Get Your Flu Shot

Ever since the conception of vaccines and other immunization medicines, there has always been debate on whether they work and whether it is safe to be injected with certain chemicals and parts of vaccines and flu shots. The piece of advice that I, many scientists, doctors and physicians have for all currently able-bodied people this cold and dreary fall season: Get your flu shots and always get your required vaccines.

Skeptics of the flu shot and other vaccines have many theories and experiences for them to doubt the shots, ranging from the flu shot not working, to causing complex disorders in the brain like autism. However, many of these studies have been proven to be false and even done illegally.

One of the most publicized scientific studies that claimed that the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccines caused autism in children has been completely debunked in 2016. British doctor Dr. Andrew Wakefield published a report in the Lancet, medical journal based in the United Kingdom, in 1988. “12 children (mean age six years [range three-ten], 11 boys) were referred to a paediatric gastroenterology unit with a history of normal development followed by loss of acquired skills, including language, together with diarrhea and abdominal pain.” stated the now-retracted study done by Wakefield and 12 other doctors. “Children underwent gastroenterological, neurological, and developmental assessment and review of developmental records. We identified associated gastrointestinal disease and developmental regression in a group of previously normal children, which was generally associated in time with possible environmental triggers.”

Scientists around the world spent years using time and resources trying to refute Wakefield’s studies, which prompted investigative reports that also pointed out ethical problems in his research. “[The British General Medical Council] found several instances of what it said was unprofessional conduct by Dr. Wakefield.” reported John F. Burns of the New York Times in their article on the British General Medical Council’s trial of Wakefield. “[The British General Medical Council] cited his taking blood samples for his study from children at his son’s birthday party; he paid each child £5, about $7.20 today, and joked about it later. It also noted that part of the costs of Dr. Wakefield’s research was paid by lawyers for parents seeking to sue vaccine makers for damages.”

Besides the shocking factors in how he obtained his data, his use of the research he conducted was not truthful either. “The claims in the original paper that children were ‘consecutively referred’ and that investigations were ‘approved’ by the local ethics committee have been proven to be false.” said the editors of Lancet, the journal that published his original study, in their final retraction of his research in Feb. 2010. “Therefore we fully retract this paper from the published record.”

Yet, many parents and even celebrities like Jim Carrey Jenny McCarthy still believe in studies like these and continue to spread information to their fans. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a list of an astonishing list of 44 studies, court trials and investigative reports that urge parents and everyday citizens to realize that vaccines do not cause autism spectrum disorder. “Research has been conducted on all of these topics, and the studies continue to find vaccines to be a safe and effective way to prevent serious disease.” said AAP in 2013. “These studies do not show any link between autism and MMR vaccine, thimerosal, multiple vaccines given at once, fevers or seizures.”

Even with constant pleas from the Center of Disease Control and other health organizations, there is still miseducation on what flu shots and vaccines are, and what is in them. There are two types of vaccines commonly used among hospitals and clinics in the world: live attenuated and inactivated. Inactivated vaccines are composed of whole viruses/bacteria or fractions of them. These vaccines have ‘wild’ and can be considered disease-causing. However, in most laboratories these viruses/bacteria are weakened to the point where they can only replicate. There is no research that shows that the flu shot hurts the immune system more than not getting one would. “[The] flu shot cannot cause flu illness.” according to Centers for Disease and Control (CDC). “Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu vaccine viruses at all.” If certain people cannot get vaccines because of allergies or age, it is important for those who do not have these allergies to get vaccines so they do not spread the infections to those who cannot get their shots.

Keep in mind that not getting these immunizations can spread disease quickly around the country and world. During 1988-1990, California experienced a measles outbreak in children that were most common in children under 5 years old, and the highest incidents occurred in infants younger than 12 months. There were 16,400 reported cases, 3,390 hospital admissions, and 75 deaths due to measles in these two years. “The major cause of the epidemic was low immunization levels among preschool-aged children and young adults.” states the study “Measles epidemic from failure to immunize” from the Western Journal of Medicine in 1993, conducted by scientists L.G. Dales, K.W. Kizer, G.W. Rutherford, C.A. Pertowski, S.H. Waterman, and G. Woodford. “Rates of complications, admission to hospital, and death were surprisingly high. Unless the level of immunization in preschool-aged children is increased, this type of epidemic will probably recur.”

And it did. In December 2014, a huge outbreak of measles was reported in 13 states, most cases stemming from people who had visited Disneyland and California Adventure in California. “From Dec. 28, 2014, through Jan. 21, 2015, 51 confirmed cases of measles linked to this outbreak have been reported to CDC, 42 from California and nine from six other states (three in UT, two in WA, one in OR, one in CO, one in NE, and one in AZ). At this time, no source case for the outbreak has been identified, but it is likely that a traveler (or more than one traveler) who was infected with measles overseas visited one or both of the Disney parks in December during their infectious period.” stated Centers for Disease Control on Jan. 23, 2015, a little after the outbreaks were reported.

What we learned in 1998 and 2014 and beyond should teach us something. It doesn’t matter if only one family doesn’t get their vaccines and flu shots, or if it is a whole political group that doesn’t. It doesn’t matter if it is a flu with small symptoms like a cough and runny nose, or an infectious disease like measles that can kill children under 12 months who are not able to be vaccinated. These studies, stories, and signs show us that there needs to be something changed. Vaccines and flu shots are not taking away your child’s ability to think clearly, stay in school or succeed in life. They are giving your child a chance to live and to stop endemic infection before it reaches your community, your country and your world.