Every year I, and a lot of other pro-science bloggers, write article after article about getting the seasonal flu vaccine, which, of course, prevents most types of flu. I even have a very popular article that calls health care workers who don’t get their flu vaccines “dumbasses.”
The seasonal flu vaccine saves lives. There is almost no evidence contrary to that fact.
And this week, California public health officials confirmed the first flu-related death of the 2015-16 flu season. The flu victim was under 65 years old and lived in Santa Clara County. Yes, the flu can be most dangerous to the elderly, but it’s also dangerous for those with chronic diseases, the very young, and, frankly, everyone else.
And just as frightening, a baby, less than 1 year old, died of the flu this week in Stanislaus County, CA. If the baby was less than six months old, then she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine, so she was at risk of contracting the disease. I cannot think of anything more painful than imagining what these parents are feeling.
During the 2014-15 flu season, 78 Californians died of the flu, 36% of whom were between the ages of 18 and 49 years old (pdf). So, if you’re young and healthy, the flu can still kill you.
The California Department of Public Health has been recommending the flu shot since October, which is generally when the flu season begins in the US. During the 2014-15 season, the incidence of influenza peaked in mid-January in California, although in late December in the rest of the country.
Early flu surveillance has started with light flu activity, but since we are still 2-3 months from the peak part of the flu season, we don’t know how it might turn out. Also, the CDC and other health authorities still haven’t determined whether the virus has mutated severely, which could reduce the effectiveness of parts of the vaccine.
As a service to the readers of this blog, let’s quickly dispense with a small, but annoyingly repeated myths about the flu vaccines.
- The flu vaccine is dangerous. No. No.
- The flu vaccine contains mercury. No.
- The flu vaccine gives you the flu. No.
- The flu vaccine is ineffective. No.
- The flu vaccine causes autism. No vaccine causes autism.
- The flu vaccine does not save lives. Wrong. Really wrong.
- The flu vaccine should not be given to pregnant women. No.
There are many other myths. And they’ve all been completely debunked.
You may think that you’re impervious to the flu. You’re not, it could kill.
You may think that you’ve never had the flu. Good for you, if that’s true (and people sometimes have no clue what the flu actually is), go to Las Vegas and gamble, because the odds favor you. But just like in Las Vegas, based on random chance, you may catch it.
You may think that it’s all a conspiracy. Go buy a tin oil hat, and then the flu shot. The shot triples the effect of the tin foil, so that the government mind controlling rays won’t touch you.
People die of the flu, a preventable disease. Your parents could die. Your grandmother. Your best friend from college. Or you yourself. Reduce that risk by getting the vaccine.