The flu can kill – get the seasonal flu vaccine

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.

  1. The flu vaccine is dangerous. No. No.
  2. The flu vaccine contains mercury. No.
  3. The flu vaccine gives you the flu. No.
  4. The flu vaccine is ineffective. No.
  5. The flu vaccine causes autism. No vaccine causes autism.
  6. The flu vaccine does not save lives. Wrong. Really wrong.
  7. 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.


The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!
  • Sandy Perlmutter

    This is an extract from the article below:

    ““As California’s public health officer, I am saddened when the flu turns into loss of life,” Dr. Smith said. “It is especially troubling when a baby, too young to be vaccinated, passes away. To protect babies who cannot yet be vaccinated, we should get our flu shots. Preventing the spread of this often deadly disease is why getting vaccinated is so important.”

    Young children less than a year of age are at increased risk of severe influenza. While children cannot be vaccinated for the flu until they are six months old, there are several ways to protect them. Pregnant women should get vaccinated. This will protect the mother and the newborn baby. Also, anyone who is around a young child or other high-risk person should be vaccinated to reduce the risk of spreading influenza. Overall influenza activity in California remains sporadic, but Dr. Smith points out that influenza viruses circulate at their peak levels from December through April.

    “I urge you to be vaccinated now before the flu really spreads widely to protect yourself and those around you,” said Dr. Smith.

    Each year, flu causes millions of illnesses, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths in the United States. To reduce this threat, CDPH recommends the annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older, including pregnant women. “

  • Sandy Perlmutter

    My mother is 96. Her caretaker is a lovely woman, very religious, from St Vincent. She doesn’t believe in flu vaccination. I really am afraid to confront her. She would not appreciate further pushing from me, and I depend on her sterling performance in taking care of my mother. So prayer may be the only answer!

    She is an immigrant so not someone who inherited the Black American distrust of the medical establishment. She just didn’t have much of an education. The only book she reads is the Bible. We are surrounded by health care semi-professionals like her. When I worked for Public Health Solutions, a substantial number of the African-American employees did not take the free flu shot. We were not direct care, but still… Many of our clients were HIV Positive; we wouldn’t want them exposed to viruses with their compromised immune systems.

    I had a really good (reactive) senior citizen flu shot this year at CVS, free!

    The count begins…

  • Dorit Reiss

    California’s Department of Health also reported a second death, of an infant. 🙁