Nevada County residents resist flu vaccines
November 29, 2012
The residents of Nevada County, long known for having one of the lowest vaccination rates in California, are once again faced with the annual question: flu shot or no flu shot?
Will the vaccine, which depends on how well Nevada County viruses match with the three used in the vaccine, be effective? Is this just a multi-billion-dollar scam promoted by vaccine manufacturers or is it the best defense against the dreaded high fever, aches and exhaustion? Could it save lives among our most vulnerable?
Nevada County readers didn't hold back when posed the questions, "Have you gotten your flu shot? Why? Or why not?" on The Union's Facebook page:
"I will never get a flu shot again …"
"I no longer get the flu shot, because I actually get the flu for 24 hours after I get the shot…"
"If it's not broken, why fix it? I have never had a flu shot and feel very strongly against them …"
"My flu shot consists of eating a vegan diet without processed foods and sugar, drinking lots of water, and freshly juiced organic greens, ginger, carrots and lemon … never had the flu shot and neither have my kids."
"I wouldn't trust the corporate-owned drug stores that litter Brunswick or the giant pharma companies for a second."
"I have a cold right now but as soon as I am better I am getting one."
When it comes to employees of Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital, the county health department has weighed in on the matter. If the number of flu outbreaks county-wide hits a certain number, all hospital employees who have not had the flu vaccine will be required to wear masks.
"We're not there yet," said Lisa Humphrey, the hospital's employee health coordinator. "This is our second year with this rule. But I liked what the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) emphasizes: if more people get vaccinated, everybody will be healthier."
Nationwide, health experts predict that one in five are expected to get the flu this winter, and more than 200,000 may be sick enough to be hospitalized.
While the CDC maintains that an annual flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu for most over six months of age, it emphasizes that "how well flu vaccines work will continue to vary each year."
In a study published last month, scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota challenged conventional wisdom with new research.
The study found "inconsistent evidence of protection in children age 2 to 17 years"; "moderate protection for healthy adults age 18 to 64"; and "a paucity (small or insufficient amount) of evidence for protection in adults 65 years of age and older."
Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, as well as for the Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Influenza, was quoted in the New York Times as saying, "We have over-promoted and over-hyped this vaccine. It does not protect as promoted. It's all a sales job: It's all public relations."
While complications were found to be rare, the study, "The Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines," suggests that the effectiveness has been exaggerated and that the overinflated confidence in current vaccines has prevented research that could track down more effective vaccines.
According to the CDC, elderly people who get flu vaccines are less likely to die of any cause; however, they may be the ones who tend to go to the doctor more regularly anyway, say skeptics.
While at this point in time research suggests that influenza vaccines may tend to benefit — in varying and questionable degrees — the general populous, a large number of Nevada County residents are expected — not surprisingly — to opt out.
While Grass Valley naturopathic doctor Gregory Weisswasser, ND, recommends some vaccines for children — such as whooping cough and diphtheria — he subscribes to the "less is more" philosophy when it comes to the flu vaccine.
"Flu shots tend to be hit or miss each year when it comes to effectiveness," he said. "If you're healthy, I don't see a need to get stabbed with a needle and get injected with something that could cause a reaction, such as a rash or mild flu symptoms. I might suggest it to those who have compromised immune systems or the elderly, but until a whole flu-vaccinated generation goes by, we won't know if there are negatives we didn't anticipate. I say it's better to put less in the body and focus on wellness."
Regardless of the varying opinions regarding flu shots, the CDC, Weisswasser and the county health department are sure to agree on one key strategy: Wash your hands.
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4203.
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