MAILBAG: Should You Say "Yes" to the Flu Shot? (or Not?)

What’s your take on the flu vaccine? I can’t decide if I should get it.”

-Veronica, from Cleveland, OH

Hi Veronica,

The choice to get the flu vaccine or not is very personal. There’s no single answer that applies to everyone. But I can share some of the guidelines I use to help my patients make this same decision.

The flu is no joke.

Between 20 and 50 thousand people die every year from influenza. And millions have been killed from specific strains (like the Spanish flu) in the past.

So let’s talk about the effectiveness of the shot.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the flu vaccine is typically somewhere between 40 to 60 percent effective.

But in some years, that number plummets to as low as 10 percent.

The reason why there’s sometimes such a steep drop is because of how the vaccine is created.

Health organizations worldwide monitor and report on the flu strains they currently see their area. Then, every year in early February, a group of American scientists make an educated guess about which strains are MOST likely to affect us here in the United States.

Some years their guess is SPOT on. And in others, it’s WAY off.

You see, viruses aren’t always easy to predict. They’re constantly changing (something we’ve all learned from COVID). That means the strains you’re exposed to can differ from those you’re vaccinated against.

If the strains in the vaccine turned out to be similar to the ones in circulation that year, then you’ll still have MORE protection than you would without the shot.

But if they’re entirely different from the ones the scientists guessed for the season, you’re far more likely to catch the flu.

So, how do you decide if you should get the flu vaccine? Here’s what I tell my patients.

There are several situations in which the vaccine is almost always a good choice:

  • The flu causes the most harm to people who are ALREADY battling health issues. If you have an ongoing health problem (a preexisting condition) such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, cancer, or obesity, it’s a good idea to get the vaccine.
  • If you spend a lot of time around either large groups of people (say at church or work) OR in a setting where many different people are coming and going (like an airport or retail store), then it’s also a good idea to get a vaccine.
  • If getting the flu puts someone you come into contact with at risk, such as an elderly parent or sick friend, getting the vaccine is also a good idea.

There are risks with taking any vaccine, but they’re generally low. And they’re often offset by the risks you face from the disease should you catch it.

If you have concerns about the flu vaccine, your doctor or pharmacist can answer any questions and help you make the best choice.

Dr. Scott Olson, ND

Written By Dr. Scott Olson, ND

Nearly 25 years ago, failed mainstream medical treatments left Dr. Olson in constant pain – and his health in ruins. And that’s when he did something REVOLUTIONARY. He began his career in medicine – and dedicated his life to uncovering the true, underlying causes of disease.
Through his innovative medical practices in Tennessee and Colorado, Dr. Olson has helped cure countless seniors from across America of arthritis… heart disease… diabetes… and even cancer. All without risky prescription drugs or painful surgeries.

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