Last week, one of my fellow bloggers here at Baby’s First Year, Rebekah Kuschmider, wrote a post about why she’s getting the flu shot, and while I completely respect Rebekah’s choice, I have to say that I do not feel the same.
I have actually never gotten the flu vaccine in my adult life – not even during pregnancy which the CDC recommends – and I am not planning on getting it this year for myself or my baby (she is 8 months and according to CDC, old enough to receive the vaccine). Some people may feel this to be reckless since I have a baby who could catch the flu from me, but I have reasons behind my decision and I thought I’d share them.
A few reasons why I’m not getting the flu shot…
1. It isn’t as effective as you’d think.
The flu vaccine will only protect you from one particular strain of the influenza virus and basically the vaccine makers take their best educated guess as to which strain will hit the hardest and go with it. But, because the influenza virus changes and evolves over time it is likely you won’t actually get the right strain and may still end up with the flu anyway. According to an article published by the National Vaccine Information Center, this happened during the 2003-2004 flu season when the vaccine did not protect against that year’s most dominant flu strain.
2. The flu shot and the actual flu have similar symptoms.
If I don’t get the flu shot, I may or may not get the actual flu. If I were to get the flu shot, I would likely get some flu symptoms including fever, runny nose, sore throat, diarrhea, vomiting… So, if I may end up with flu symptoms either way I’ll just take my chances.
3. There is still a risk of vaccine injury
According to the CDC, while unlikely, the flu vaccine could lead to fever-induced seizures, allergic reactions and potentially Guillain-Barré Syndrome. I realize that this is unlikely, but it’s just not worth it to me for something as mild as the flu.
4. One word: thimerosal
Thimerosal is a mercury-based preservative that is used in the influenza vaccine and has been linked to autism. While I don’t believe that thimerosal is the sole component in causing autism by any means, I still find it more than a little sketchy that the FDA has done away with thimerosal in new vaccines for children since 2001, but still continues to allow its use in the flu shot. The CDC also states that, “The most recent and rigorous scientific research does not support the argument that thimerosal-containing vaccines are harmful. However, CDC and FDA continually evaluate new scientific information about the safety of vaccines.” This is basically a fancy way of saying that they haven’t proven it’s harmful, but they also haven’t proven it isn’t and are still checking into it. Basically, the idea of putting a mercury based preservative into my body for a something like a little flu doesn’t seem like a good risk/reward trade-off to me.
3. I have a very strong immune system and am breastfeeding my baby.
Before I had my baby I was a preschool teacher, so I have a pretty great immune system and rarely get sick. I’ve never had the flu shot in my adult life and I’ve made it through relatively unscathed thus far, so I feel confident that I’ll be ok – flu shot or not – since I’m not in a high-risk category. I’m also not too worried about passing anything to my baby while I’m breastfeeding, because of the amazing job the body does of creating antibodies to fight illness while breastfeeding.
5. There are other ways to prevent the flu
In addition to all of these other reasons for not getting the flu shot, I won’t be getting one because it is merely a preventative measure, not a sure-fire way to avoid the flu, and as such there are other natural ways to help prevent the flu that do not involve putting preservatives in my body. Regular hand washing, vitamin D supplements, probiotics, and healthful eating are just a few strategies that I plan on taking advantage of (read more suggestions here).
So there you have it: all the reasons why I’m not getting my flu shot and feeling confident that is the best choice for me and my baby.
Have you gotten or are you planning to get a flu shot for yourself or your baby? Why or why not?
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