October 1, 2013
By Christine Cheng (R.Ph), Fred Cheng (R.Ph)
Undoubtedly, a flu shot is the most effective way to prevent yourself from getting the flu this season. Yet, there are many misconceptions out there that keep some people away from getting their annual flu shots. Select BC Pharmacists, such as ourselves (Fred and Christine), have been trained to provide injection services as of 2009; we can give you shots ranging from the flu, shingles, pneumonia, hepatitis, MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), etc. What exactly are you getting with a “flu shot”? Is it safe? Is it for me? Read on for the necessary info to make a responsible, informed decision about the flu vaccine, as well as the next most viable alternatives.
The flu vaccine contains elements that stimulate the appropriate defenses in your body to fight the actual flu virus if you were to contract it later on in the flu season. The vaccines do not contain live flu viruses; there are merely bits and pieces of the virus inside, and thus you simply cannot get the flu from the flu shot. What they do, though, is they act like a “mug shot” that is presented to your immune system (ie. the “police”, if you will). This way, your immune system can quickly recognize the real culprit (ie. the flu virus) when it presents itself such as during a flu infection. This speedy reaction to the actual flu virus would not only protect you, but also your loved ones around you.
No vaccine (or medicine, for that matter) is 100% effective. About 10% of those vaccinated may still get the flu, but did you know that 100% of un-vaccinated individuals who are exposed will get the flu? Most people recover from the flu, so it would just be a matter of suffering the symptoms for 7-10 days. However, the concern is that some patients (eg. elderly, immune-compromised) may contract a more serious secondary infection such as pneumonia, which is potentially fatal. Also, a vaccinated individual who contracts the flu will suffer less serious symptoms, and for a shorter duration than someone who refused a flu shot.
Some people are concerned that “vaccines contain mercury”. This is utterly false. There is a misconception that the mercury-derived preservative, “thimerosal”, may cause neurological side-effects, or even autism. As of 2001, the mercury derivative, thimerosal, is removed from all vaccines in the US merely as a precaution; in Canada, very few vaccines contain the preservative. First of all, thimerosal does not cause autism and will not cause neurological effects, especially at the traces found in the older vaccines. Secondly, “mercury derivatives” come in many forms; thimerosal is not a form that accumulates in the body, and it is not even the form that is linked to health risks. Thus, there really is no controversy here, and such rumours are downright ridiculous.
The flu vaccine does not weaken our immune system. Some people fear that vaccines can divert too many resources to fight a mock infection. Our immune system faces hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of different germs, so the 2-3 strains of flu bits presented to our body is trivial. It may take from days to weeks for the body to respond fully to an invading organism, so presenting the body with a “mug shot” (ie. the flu vaccine) can really make a difference when the real flu hits because the body’s defenses are already alert and ready to fight.
There are many natural and homeopathic products available to help boost your immunity this flu season. THYMULINE and INFLUENZINUM, with or without ESBERITOX and/or PROBIOTICS are trusted combos for curbing the flu. Recently, IMMUNOSMART by Lorna Vanderhaeghe has also shown its effectiveness as an overall immune booster. If the flu bug has hit, try OSCILLOCOCCINUM, BROCOSIN, STODAL, SINUSALIA, CORYZALIA, ENGYSTOL, GRIPP-HEEL, EUPHORBIUM, VINCEEL, which are great for various flu (and cold) symptoms.
The flu vaccine is updated every year and it is your best defense against getting the flu this season. Misconceptions abound about the flu shot and it is dangerous to buy into the rumours. Nobody likes to be poked, but nobody likes to be sick either. CLOVERDALE PHARMASAVE has drop-in or appointment times for flu shots 7 days a week; please check that Fred or Christine C are on shift. Do yourself and your loved ones around you a favour: get your annual flu shots and take the appropriate supplements to get through this flu and holiday season in great health.
(Christine and Fred Cheng are a passionate, charismatic sister-brother pharmacist team at their unique family-owned and operated Pharmasave in Cloverdale, BC. Lyle Sunada is the pharmacy manager at the same pharmacy. They specialize in natural remedies and compounding for both human and veterinarian use. They would love to hear from you! 604-576-2888; www.cloverdalepharmasave.com. Of course, before you begin any activity program or try any OTC supplementation, check with your physician and pharmacist.)
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net