Opinions

Shortcomings of vaccine have no basis in science

Photo by Tina Wallace

In what follows, I had planned to denounce the flu shot. I was going to tell you how unnecessary it is for avoiding the headaches, coughing, sneezing, vomiting and diarrhea that accompany this joyous time of year. My arguments were strong, my logic infallible. Or so I thought.

A few minutes of online research proved otherwise. As it turns out, my reasoning was a little weak and my facts a little untrue: the flu shot is not so bad after all.

But I was not alone in thinking that getting the vaccine caused more harm than good. Many others would agree, and that’s why it’s important to set the record straight.

To start, I strongly believed the vaccine has many side effects. I’ve heard stories of people having serious allergic reactions and of others contracting the flu, of all things.

True, some minor side effects may include achiness and fever, but severe allergic reactions are extremely rare. The worst cases called Guillain-Barré syndrome cause a person’s immune system to attack its own nerve cells, but occur once per every million vaccinations.

In addition, the vaccine does not contain any ingredients that could cause the flu; some variants include inactivated virus cells, but these cannot cause infection. So it would seem the people who experience symptoms are likely misdiagnosing themselves, mistaking the flu for a bad cold or a good reason to stay home from work.

I also believed, as silly as it seems, that mass-distribution of the vaccine would contribute to the creation of a super-virus, leading us closer to a worldwide pandemic. The influenza strain mutates every year and attempting to prevent its spread would only make it angry.

I now know this to be a bunch of hogwash. Although the overuse of hand sanitizer can compromise our immune systems by minimizing our contact with everyday germs, which our systems need to build up immunity, the same logic does not apply to influenza. In reality, contracting the influenza virus once can have serious complications.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), annual influenza epidemics cause roughly three to five million cases of severe illness and about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide. In Canada, 2,000 to 8,000 people die of influenza each year.

Moreover, the WHO states, “Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can prevent 70 to 90 per cent of influenza-specific illness.” So much for my belief that the flu shot is, to a large extent, ineffective.

Although these stats may not matter to you personally as a healthy young adult, they certainly matter to the sick, the elderly, and the young we encounter everyday at school, at the mall, at the grocery store, and on the bus.

But for those of you still unconvinced, I urge you to go online and see for yourself. You’ll find the odd blog by a hippy naturalist stating what you want to hear. But the WHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and many other credible organizations all agree the flu shot is worth getting.