Don’t miss your big ‘shot’

The importance of not skipping your annual flu shot


Delaney Aikins, Staff Writer

As the weather drops and the signs of winter emerge slowly, the number of absences in schools and late homework begins to increase as it moves closer to the holiday season. The sounds of students hacking their lungs out and blowing their noses fill classrooms and bustling hallways. Germs, bacteria and various other microorganisms thrive in public schools, spreading quicker than wildfires and leaving kids with colds and fevers. Simultaneously, one of the most infamous viruses, Influenza, also known as the flu, comes back in to play.

Back in 1918 when the first documented Influenza epidemic took place, there were no vaccines at that time to fight back, it is estimated around 50 million people died according to the National Archives. Today, the number of people dying from the disease has significantly decreased to about 41,000 people each year according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However the decrease in the death toll was no miracle, scientists developed several vaccines against Influenza and had people that worked round the clock monitoring and analyzing the diseases’ activity.

Unlike Rubella and Mumps, no one flu shot can cover you for life. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, there are around 100 subtypes of Influenza, and every year the strands in circulation often change. To make matters even more difficult, the flu’s genetic code allows it to mutate rather rapidly compared to other viruses. Twice every year the World Health Organization holds a meeting among experts to determine which strands of the virus are most prevalent and the pick four strains to include in the season’s quadrivalent vaccine. According to the CDC, during the 2013- 2014 flu season around 9,400 deaths relating to the flu were prevented thanks to the vaccine that was provided.

Unfortunately, in recent years the number of people against vaccinating themselves and their children has surged. Despite the number of studies and years of research debunking many of the anti-vaxxers claims. In 1990, a biased report stated there was a correlation between the MMR vaccines and Autism. The idea spread quickly through the anti-vaxxers community and became one of their main arguments of why they should not have to vaccinate themselves or their children. However, the article has been proven to be untrue through various other studies done.

An example is an extensive study done in 1999 by the Department of Community Child Health. The agency investigated the link between the MMR vaccine and Autism yet the researchers concluded there was no obvious association between the two. The main author of the article was banned from practicing medicine in Britain and 10 of the 13 sources refuted their statements used in the article.

The spread of propaganda has led many to believe vaccines are a manipulative marketing ploy made up by greedy business tyrants. The effects of the decline in the number people getting vaccinated during flu season can be seen in the data the CDC has collected over the years. During the 2017-2018 season, the CDC estimated there were around 80,000 influenza-related deaths in the U.S alone. Compared to prior years, where around 41,000 flu-related deaths occurred, demonstrating a clear and drastic spike in the viruses’ death toll.

Regardless of the alarming statistics, a recent study done by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. l showed that a large portion of parents don’t plan on getting their children vaccinated this year. The parents reported that they did not want to get their child vaccinated since they are currently healthy and getting the flu shot would somehow ruin their child’s health. Even though 80% of child’s death relating to Influenza were not vaccinated according to the CDC.

Despite what many Anti-vaxxers believe, deciding not getting their yearly flu shot isn’t a choice that will only affect one person. When many people choose not to get their annual flu shots it inadvertently weakens the herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large portion of a population has become immune to a virus. It provides protection to many individuals who are unable to get vaccines due to medical circumstances or have extremely fragile immune systems. A majority of the people unable to get vaccinated includes pregnant women, infants, elderly citizens and people suffering from chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, since they are unable to get the flu shot, they are the highest at risk for serious flu complications to occur.

Thus, in order to lower the risk for those who are unable to receive the vaccination for Influenza, people who are not restricted by medical or physical conditions should all get their flu shots to help contain the spread of the virus.

There are two options this year for the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends the injectable flu vaccine rather than the nasal spray because it has provided the most consistent protection against certain strains of the flu virus. However, for those who are deathly afraid of needles, it is possible to get the nasal spray but is only recommended for healthy individuals between the ages of 5 through 50.  In order to be protected from Influenza during its peak activity, it is highly suggested to receive the vaccination before the end of November.

Not getting vaccinated as a form of protest or exercising your right as a parent is not a sufficient excuse to expose others to the dangers of Influenza. As a member of the community and of the United States, it is our duty to protect those who cannot protect themselves. As a parent, it is your job to ensure your child’s safety even if it means putting their health above your own personal beliefs.

Do your part, receive your annual flu shot this year.