Is it Worth Getting Vaccinated Against Flu?
January 21, 2020
Globes — The question of whether or not to vaccinate against influenza (flu) usually stirs up far less emotion than the discussion about vaccinations against childhood diseases. Those refraining from flu vaccinations do so not because of strong opposition to it, but because they did not get around to it, or because they are not sure that it is necessary.
Dr. Tomer Hertz, senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the National Institute for Biotechnology in the Negev, wants to address some of the myths and eliminate some popular superstitions surrounding the flu vaccine.
There are several reasons for the difference in people’s attitudes toward the flu vaccine. One is that flu is not considered a deadly disease. This is a common misconception, of course, because the flu can be deadly to older people, infants, people with suppressed immune systems, and occasionally a healthy young person. In recent years, 60 to 70 people a year in Israel have died of the disease.
Dr. Hertz says that the same thing happens every year. “People get vaccinated each year only when stories are published about apparently healthy young people and babies who died,” he says. “Even after the hysterical response, which takes place in most years, the rate of vaccination is now 22%.”
Other reasons for the low vaccination rates are an inconvenience – it is necessary to get vaccinated every year, an action that requires planning and proactive action. Furthermore, we all know people who are convinced they got the flu only a day or two after getting vaccinated. Is it possible that vaccination causes the disease?
Dr. Hertz dismisses this claim. “You can’t get flu from the vaccine, and you obviously can’t infect anyone else with flu after the vaccine. The vaccine sometimes creates a local pain response in the area of the injection, and sometimes muscle pain or low temperature. This is a response by the activated immune system, but it isn’t a disease.”
If we want to reduce the risk of infection with flu among both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, hygiene plays an important role. “People used to sneeze and cough into their hand; now they know that it’s better to do it into their elbow. Even something like this helps. It’s also recommended staying at home when you’re sick, but since the virus spreads in the body before there are any symptoms, this won’t solve the entire problem,” Hertz says.
No one tells people avoiding vaccination that they are knowingly spreading diseases that threaten children’s lives. Dr. Hertz says flu shots, like vaccinations against childhood diseases, are a social activity that helps prevent infecting others.