I am often asked whether I believe people should get their flu shots. Not being a doctor I cannot comment on this and I believe it is the individual’s choice, however there is a trend to advise flu shots for young children and older people.
Influenza is an infectious respiratory disease, caused by a virus that can be a great risk to certain groups of people such as older Australians, small babies and people with immunity illnesses. A complication of the flu can be pneumonia and often people end up in hospital with this.
As with any immunisation it is important to prevent rather than try and cure. We are all familiar with the polio, whooping cough, measles vaccines etc which we give our children. However the flu shots are a little different. The argument by some people is that if you take them every year then you build no natural immunity. Other reasons are when people do take the shots sometimes they end up with a worse flu than if they would not have had them at all.
Scientists usually study early in the year which strains are more dominant. They pick the worst three and develop vaccines made from some of the strains the year before. Sometimes however, like last year, there were new strains completely and occasionally the vaccine batch made does not fit the type of strain closely enough. Having said this though statistics over the years show that often the vaccine is a good match.
Even some doctors are beginning to think there are reasons not to give flu shots to their patients. A study published even way back in the British Medical Journal ‘The Lancet’ on Aug. 2, 2008 found the vaccine didn’t lower the risk of pneumonia. Other researchers found that the people who needed it most were usually too old and frail to even get to the doctor’s office for it to protect them.
What other researchers say is that we need a longer-lasting vaccine that gives immunity for more than just one year. It is usually recommended that older people, nursing home residents, health care workers, people with low immune systems, children, pregnant women or those in contact with people at high risk be immunised. As a natural practitioner though, working with sick people all the time, I need to say that I rarely get the flu and no, I do not take flu shots. My natural immunity is quite high. It’s up to you to make up your mind what is right for you.