The quick answer: Yes! Absolutely get vaccinated. The quicker we can stop this virus in it’s tracks, the less chances we have that it mutates. Right now it’s a relatively mild virus, but it has has the potential to mutate. If we have the ability as a society to stop it before it can mutate, then we should. Not only that, but why get sick if you can prevent it, especially if you happen to be one of the unlucky few who gets hit really hard by it!
Because of all the media attention this vaccine is getting, and because it feels a bit rushed, a lot of people are somewhat skeptical of getting vaccinated. Today I’m going to try and answer as many questions as I possibly can about the vaccine. And although I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching this information, I’m still not a medical expert. Therefore if for any reason any information in this post is incorrect, please let me know right away.
How does the flu vaccine actually work?
Both the seasonal and the H1N1 flu vaccine work the same way. They basically help us create antibodies to fight the “real live” virus. How this is achieved is by injecting us with a tiny part of the DEAD virus. Again, it’s NOT live. And because the virus is dead, it cannot grow in us. But what it does do is allow our bodies to combat it, and hence build an immunity to it.
This is also generally why we don’t get sick from a vaccine. The virus is not live, and hence is not infecting us. It’s possible that we feel some minor flu like symptoms, and this is a good thing. It means our body is reacting to the dead virus and fighting it off, building antibodies.
Can flu shots cause the flu?
No. The vaccine ONLY contains DEAD virus. If you do get the flu after a virus it’s because you came into contact with it from another source, such as a door handle, a handshake, an infected air particle from someone coughing in the same room, and so on.
As well, do remember that the vaccine’s effect is not immediate. If you get the vaccine in the morning, you’re not immune that afternoon. The vaccine works by letting your body react to the dead virus, giving it the ability to pre-build antibodies before it’s exposed to the real live virus. Therefore you have to give your body the time to create these antibodies. For H1N1 it can be anywhere from 10-21 days for your body to build up it’s immunity.
Am I completely immune to the virus after I get vaccinated?
No. No vaccine is perfect! Most flu vaccines are 70-90% effective. It really depends on how closely matched the real virus is to the virus you were vaccinated for. So for example, if the H1N1 virus mutates significantly, then it’s possible that the vaccine’s effectiveness drops. Even more reason to get it now, so that we can stop it before it gets a chance to mutate. Studies have shown that if at least 70% of a population get vaccinated, it’s enough to extinguish most viruses.
In any case, right now it’s appears that the H1N1 vaccine is about 85% effective. That means that 15 people out of 100 people that got vaccinated will still get affected by the H1N1 virus.
The good news is that if you do get affected, it’s very likely to be much milder than if you didn’t get vaccinated. And if it does mutate, you may still have some partial immunity. Some immunity is better than no immunity.
Studies have also shown that people who get vaccinated do get sick less and miss fewer days of work.
Do healthy people need to get vaccinated?
Yes. Healthy people do get sick. Although in most cases their symptoms are much milder than the young and elderly. However when newer (for lack of better word) strains come out, such as the H1N1 flu virus, they are just at risk if not more so because of the Cytokine Storm produced by their body’s immune system. In the 1918 pandemic, it was the healthy young people that seemed to get hit the hardest.
If nothing else, although the symptoms may be milder to healthy people, they can potentially expose a lot of other people, such as their kids, their grand-parents, their parents, their grand-kids, their nieces, nephews, etc. Basically they can expose people who’s immune systems aren’t as robust as theirs.
What about the Guillain-Barre syndrome?
In 1976, a very small but unfortunate number of people developed GBS (Guillain-Barre Syndrome) after getting vaccinated (300 people out of 48 million). The vaccine that was given then didn’t go through the usual process like the H1N1 vaccine did. As well, even though it was never officially proven that the vaccine caused GBS, that vaccine is no longer used.
Studies have since then found that there is no difference between people who get flu vaccines and those who don’t in terms of getting GBS. But your chance of getting GBS after being sick from the flu is much greater than your risk of getting GBS after a flu shot.
In other words, getting the flu vaccine overall drops your rates of getting GBS. Do remember that the flu itself can cause swelling of the brain, it can cause comas, seizures, etc. The odds of getting GBS from the flu itself are higher than from the vaccine.
Is there mercury in the flu vaccine?
In some vaccines there are tiny amounts of thimerosal in the flu vaccine. Thimerosal prevents bacteria from growing in the bottle of vaccine. Thimerosal breaks down into a kind of mercury, but not the kind that causes mercury poisoning.
What are adjuvants?
Adjuvants are additives to vaccines to make them more effective. They basically cause your body to make more antibodies and to make them faster. It’s almost like pressing a turbo button on your immune system.
Adjuvants also help people with weaker immune systems since they aren’t as strong. Again, remember that the whole idea behind a vaccine is to expose your body to the virus and give it a chance to build an immunity to it. If your immune system is already weak, it may not be able to fully build up an immunity to it without a boost.
The other benefit of adjuvants is that it gives vaccine manufactures the ability to produce more vaccines in less time, which is great for rampping up vaccine supplies in times of pandemics. It does this because each flu vaccine needs smaller amounts of the dead virus to have effect. Less virus means less time reproducing large quantities of the virus. If H1N1 had turned out to be more virulent, or if it does ever mutate to a more virulent form, adjuvants will give us the ability to manufacture more vaccine quicker.
Are adjuvants safe?
Adjuvants are correctly considered to be safe. Most people don’t realize that many other vaccines do include adjuvants, some given to babies. They’ve been around for a long time. So far the results have been positive.
The only reason non-adjuvant vaccines are recommended to some groups such as pregnant woman is just because they’ve never been tested. It’s not because negative results have been found, it’s simply because there is no data. It’s actually been recommended that if push comes to shove for a virulent strain, and the choice is between an adjuvant vaccine and no vaccine at all, that the adjuvant vaccine be taken. It does appear to be safe, but it’s also hard to ethically test some specific groups of people (such as pregnant women).
How do you get the vaccine if you have egg allergies?
Unfortunately most flu vaccines are grown in eggs. If you have serious allergies to eggs, you may not be able to get the H1N1 vaccine.
That being said, I haven’t really done the full research into what options are avaialble for those with egg allergies, so if you do have these allergies, please feel free to comment below and let us all know.
Can kids become Autistic because of the flu vaccine?
There are two arguments people generally refer to when asking this question. Firstly, they point to the small amounts of mercury (the thimerosal mentioned early) as the cause. Studies have shown that this isn’t the case. In Denmark for example, thimerosal was taken out of the vaccines and it didn’t reduce the autism rate in that country. The WHO (World Health Organization) have also come to the same conclusion after several studies.
The second argument is that the rate of autism has gone up in correlation to the increase rate of vaccines. But if you remember your science 101, correlation doesn’t imply causation. Just because something is related it doesn’t mean it’s the cause.
For example, as the number of pirates have decreased, there has been an increase in global warming over the same period. Therefore the lack of pirates is the cause of global warming. Since the 1950s, both the atmospheric CO2 level and crime levels have increased sharply therefore CO2 causes crimes. In both of these cases it’s obivous that the correlation doesn’t imply the cause but sometimes the lines are fuzzier.
For example, as cell phones are being used more, autism rates have increase, therefore cell phones cause autism. I highly doubt this is true, but it’s a less obvious example. If you go one step further, as vaccinations have gone up, so have the rates of autism, therefore vaccines cause autism. Again, just because something is correlated it doesn’t mean it’s the cause. It’s back to the same type of argument: As ice cream sales increase, the rate of drowning deaths increases sharply, therefore ice cream is causing people to drown. Absurd, but it is actually correlated.
Should you or shouldn’t you get vaccinated? Yes, you should absolutely get vaccinated if you can. To be honest, there’s no reason not to.