Should I Get the Flu Shot?

October 1, 2012

By Anna Varriano

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At this time of year, I get a lot of people asking me whether or not they should get the flu shot. The conversation goes something like this:

A lot of people: “Should I get the flu shot?”

Me:  “I can’t make that decision for you.”

A lot of people: “But I’m not sure what to do. Do you get the flu shot?”

Me: “No, I don’t.”

A lot of people: “Do your kids get the flu shot?”

Me: “No, they don’t.”

A lot of people: “Why not?”

Me:   “I feel that in my family’s case, there are better ways to prevent the flu than getting the flu shot. I did some reading on the topic, weighed the risks and benefits, and made a decision from there. I encourage others to do the same.”

A lot of people:  “Can you share some of the things you based your own personal decision on?”

Me: “Sure, why don’t I do that right now.”

October marks the official start of flu season. That nasty flu brings on fever, aches and pains, headaches, and fatigue, and is often accompanied by cold symptoms. In Canada, the incidence of the flu is highest between October and March – a period of time when we get fewer hours of sunshine, and the rays are less intense. We are exposed to cold weather that impairs our virus-fighting white blood cells’ ability to deal with respiratory infections, and we are exposed to dry air that allows the virus to live longer outside of our body. (1)

I want to begin by emphasizing that the purpose of this month’s tip is not to recommend that you do or do not get a flu shot. Only you can make that decision for yourself based on your own situation, and what you are ultimately most comfortable with. I am simply sharing with you some of the information I considered to make my own decision.

First of all, I do not believe that we get the flu because our bodies are deficient in live and/or dead, naturally and/or unnaturally occurring viruses, nor because we are deficient in potentially suspect ingredients that are contained in some flu shots, including a mercury-based preservative called thimerosal. It is my understanding that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that thimerosal was still used in “multi-dose vials” that were produced for the 2012-2013 annual immunization campaign. This concerns me because it is also my understanding, based on various articles that I’ve read, that both of these potential flu shot ‘ingredients’ (unnatural viruses and mercury-based ingredients) have been associated with nervous system (includes the brain) and  immune system  dysfunctions.  (2, 5)

There is also evidence that shows that flu shots simply don’t work.  In an article I read by Dr. David Williams, entitled Why You Should Not Get the Flu Shot (3), he listed the following studies and their findings regarding the effectiveness of the flu shot:

  • The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine reported that giving young children flu shots appeared to have no impact on flu-related doctor visits or hospitalizations during two recent flu seasons.
  • A large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that the flu vaccine was no more effective for children than a placebo.
  • Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine similarly reported that there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza and pneumonia, despite the fact that vaccination coverage among the elderly has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent today.

I personally don’t believe that getting a flu shot is the best way to protect myself from getting the flu. So, what do I believe is the best action I can take? For me, it comes down to doing things on a regular basis to naturally build my immunity – and there are loads of them. I mentioned some of the most important ones in my October 2009 Tip of the Month, “Ten Steps to Building Immunity Naturally”.

Of all of the items listed in that article, I want to highlight one of them here, and that is to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D.  There are so many research studies which show that vitamin D deficiency is likely the reason for the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself; therefore, taking vitamin D is likely the single most important and inexpensive thing you can do to prevent your risk of getting the flu.

According to a 2010 study from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Alberta, “between 70% and 97% of Canadians demonstrate vitamin D deficiency. Furthermore, studies assessing 25(OH)D levels of vitamin D at 25-40nmol/litre reveal that many Canadians have profoundly deficient levels.” (4) If you want to know what your vitamin D level is, you can ask your doctor to test for it, or purchase a “do-it-yourself kit” (one source is The Vitamin D Council).

How much vitaminD should you supplement with? Many sources state that children under one year old can take up to 1,000 IU/day, children over two can take up to 2,000 IU/day, and adults (and adult sized children) can take anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 IU/day.  Some researchers suggest doubling these daily doses for a week or so if you feel you are coming down with something or if you get sick. For the latest recommendations and research regarding vitamin D, I suggest you check out The Vitamin D Council.

Please read (or re-read) my October 2009 Tip of the Month and see how you are doing in terms of taking steps to naturally build your immunity. In addition, take some time to look into the research on both the effectiveness and the safety of flu shots for your particular situation. You may end up saving yourself from a potentially ineffective and dangerous shot in the arm.

Take control of what you can!

Yours in health,

Anna

References

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