Flu Shots

Whatever your doubts about the influenza vaccine, it is an established fact that immunization is many times — many times — safer than the flu itself. That does not mean flu is a plague, nor that the vaccine is perfectly safe. Nothing in medicine and little in life is perfectly safe. Harm from the flu vaccine is possible, but a highly remote risk. For what it may be worth to make this personal, I readily accept that risk every year not only for myself, but for my beloved wife and children as well. I put the arms of the people I love most on the planet where my mouth is on this topic.

David Katz at The Health Care Blog. Also, see the Google Flu Trends graph.

Comments (11)

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  1. Jardinero1 says:

    I have heard that only in one year out of seven is the vaccine even the correct one for that flu season. Is this true? If that be the case, then how efficacious is it to get the flu shot?

  2. seyyed says:

    this would require some cost-benefit analysis. i think after weighing everything it a person is better served getting the shot

  3. Neil Caffrey says:

    I get shots to prevent future illnesses. But, I dont think the government has the right to require someone to do something inherently against your beliefs.

  4. Jordan says:

    I agree with Neil. Unless we’re talking about ebola and a host of dissident outbreak monkeys whining about their civil rights, then I want the option to inoculate myself.

  5. Studebaker says:

    I will sure be glad when they find a common denominator to preventing all flu strains so I only have to get a flu shot once every 10 years. I’m getting tired of having to get a flu shot every year — only to discover the cocktail of flu strains in the annual flu shot are not actually the ones sweeping across the continent.

  6. Jardinero1 says:

    I ask again as a factual matter, how often is the flu vaccine the correct one? Does any one know?

  7. Buster says:


    As you know, there is not one flu strain sweeping across the globe but numerous strains (i.e. mutations) of flu. A flu shot isn’t made up of one strain, but several. A panel of people at the CDC has to decide in January several strains (generally circulating in Asia) they expect to hit the United States nine or ten months later. These are used to make the flu shot cocktail that is grown in billions of eggs for use during the next flu season which begins in late fall and generally peaks in the early part of the winter — a year after it was selected.

    Several years ago the dominant strain of flu wasn’t one that was in the cocktail and a new flu shot had to be rushed to market. A couple years ago the flu shot strains were identical two years in a row. I think it’s quite common to have at least one or two of the (generally three strain) cocktail overlap from one year to the next.
    I don’t think it’s common to have the CDC completely miss the boat. I think it’s usually a matter of percentages, where a certain percentage of the flu cases that occur are represented in the flu shot cocktail for that year. I don’t have specific percentages but there is probably some academic literature on this subject but I haven’t looked for it. Here is a good article that explains how the CDC selects which strains to include.

  8. Jardinero1 says:


    Thanks. I am just trying to confirm what a doctor friend told me about the odds that the CDC gets it right.

    My thought was; when you take my odds of getting the flu(about one in twenty) and consider the mere one in seven odds that the vaccine is correct, then you don’t improve your chance of avoiding the flu, by much, when you get the vaccine.

  9. Jardinero1 says:

    If the numbers I use above are correct, my odds of getting the flu with vaccine decline from .05 to about .043. I improve my odds by about 14 percent.

  10. Thomas says:

    I only got it while I was at college, which is basically a haven for sickness.

  11. Todd says:

    I disagree with the benign reputation and safety of the flu shots. I know several people who within the past few years have experienced some rather strange reactions after getting their vaccinations.

    Then I got my shot in October. And since then, beginning the day after the shot, I’ve been experiencing a bewildering array of symptoms, mostly in my throat and ears. Constant swelling and lumps appearing in back of throat and roof of mouth. Allergy specialist called this “transient allergies” and said that future shots should be avoided and that it might take up to 2 years to for my body clear these symptoms. Hardly safe.

    Learned another co-worker went through 6 months of similar symptoms after getting her shot at work a few years back. We both work in a hospital. And Health Canada also recalled in all hospitals a certain batch that apparently there were problems with. This occurred approx 10 days after I got my shot and developed symptoms. No one is talking either including the allergy specialist.