Flu Season is Here, But So Are Vaccines

by Katie Pyzyk November 9, 2011 at 2:00 pm 2,426 67 Comments

With temperatures in the 60s this week, it may seem too early to worry about fighting off sickness this winter. Already, though, illnesses are popping up around the area. That should be the perfect reminder to go out and get a vaccine now that flu season is in full swing.

Flu season continues into the spring, and although shots are effective no matter when they’re administered, it’s better to get one early in the season. This is especially true considering the vaccine will typically take a week or two to kick in.

Flu shots gained popularity in Arlington during the H1N1 scare, and county officials are pleased with the number of people continuing to get vaccinated. Although it’s difficult to predict so early in the season, thus far there are no indicators to suggest a flu outbreak like we’ve seen in recent years. The county also reports there is ample supply of this year’s flu vaccine. It protects against three different strains of influenza, including H1N1.

“The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Arlington County Department of Human Services spokesman Kurt Larrick. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine.”

“Residents can get vaccinated at doctor’s offices, many retail stores throughout the County and at special community clinics offered through Partnerships for a Healthier Arlington and Inova Health Systems,” Larrick continued. “At these community clinics you can get the entire family vaccinated, and the vaccine is free for older adults with Medicare Part B.”

If not covered by insurance, flu shots typically go for about $30.

Prevention, Larrick added, should also be part of any flu season strategy.

“It’s also important to cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently and stay home when sick,” he said.

Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • What a Scam

    Flu vax protect against *last year’s* flu. Not this year’s. I never get the vax, and I never get the flu.

    • bred

      Please check in again when you are feeling like crap!

    • drax

      30,000 people die of the flu in the U.S. each year.

      • What a Scam

        And that’s horrible. What I’m saying is that this well-intentioned attempt at prevention is most likely ineffective. How many people get the flu despite getting the shot? And how many folks, like me, never get the flu despite never getting the shot?

        • LVGuy

          You can thank the people who get the shot for never having had the flu. It’s called herd immunity.

          Some people get the flu despite getting the shot, and the reason for that has already been explained. Viruses evolve.

        • What a Scam

          PS: And I’m someone who *voluntarily* got the smallpox vaccination. So I’m not some anti-vaccination nut. Just can’t help but notice that despite this tiresome annual mantra about the flu shot, people keep getting the flu–and I don’t.

        • drax

          Well, let us know how many. You seem to know its all a scam, so share the numbers please, with sources.

      • Jeffery Magnus

        Please share your source for this citation. I think it to be vastly incorrect.

      • E Jacob Rulus

        How do you know this number when the CDC doesn’t even know it?


    • TGEoA

      I dont know if it’s a scam, but 60% of healthcare professionals don’t get the shot.

    • Chris

      I consider it a matter of civic duty to get a flu shot. While I am young and healthy and it’s unlikely the flu will floor me, the concept of herd immunity is effective for protecting others around me. That is, for people that can’t afford the shot, or for medical reason can’t get the shot, it is my responsibility to prevent myself from being a vector of infection for them. To do any less is disgustingly selfish.

      The flu shot is a safe and effective public health measure – despite what all those flat-earthers claim.

      • zzzzz

        Well said, Chris.

  • jslanger

    You are completely incorrect.

    Since we are in the northern hemisphere, we have the ability to look at the flu season that just concluded in the southern hemisphere, as that is what we are likely going to get during this winter. Then they use these virus types to make our vaccine. I won’t say its perfect, but it is usually pretty good (some years better than others). Unfortunately, the virus has 6 segments to its DNA, and if a person has more than 1 type of virus infecting them, the DNA pieces can recombine, which is why the virus changes year-to-year.

    The flu is nothing to laugh at–it kills many people every year. I have taken care of young people who got the flu and were so sick they needed long term ventillation and a tracheostomy placed (a hole in the neck for a breathing tube).

    And FYI-you can’t get the flu from the vaccine given as a shot. It is a killed virus vaccine. You may occasionally get a few symptoms (feeling a little sick, etc) because that is actually your immune system kicking in and activating. The nasal spray vaccine is an attenuated (weakened) virus, which is why they don’t give it to the elderly or anyone with, or around someone with, a weakened immune system.

    Get the flu vaccine. I HATE getting shots, and I do it every year…its just not worth it if you do get sick.

    • What a Scam

      I’m certainly not “laughing” at the flu–no idea where you got that idea–and it’s sad that so many people get sick and that some in fact die. And I did not suggest it causes the flu; I don’t buy that one. (IF there is a correlation, I think it’s that people who are more likely to get the flu anyway, due to old age or infirmity, are also more like to get the vaccine.)

      But as you have conceded, the information on which the vaccine is based each year is always insufficient. I suspect the preventive value of the vaccine is very low. I don’t think it can hurt to get it; I just think it’s a waste of money for most people.

      • drax

        Okay, but it’s not like it costs that much.

      • Me

        Actually, you can get hurt with what’s in the “vaccine,” between the mice eggs and mercury.

  • Unless you are very young, very old, or otherwise have an immune system incapable of fighting things off you are only doing yourself harm. Exercise your immune system and allow it to fight off germs by itself. It will do you good when you really need it to kick in and fight something nasty.

    • jslanger

      Explain how “you are only doing yourself harm”? Or how “exercising” your immune system works?

      By getting a vaccine you are actually priming your immune system to recognize the virus/bacteria so that it will have a vigorous response when it sees it next. Getting a vaccine causes no detriment to your immune system.

      I don’t mean to be rude, but your comment above shows a lack of understanding of how the immune system and vaccines actually work.

      • Sure. Here’s the explanation. I think I understand it fairly well, actually. Take a read to learn something.


        • jslanger

          Happy to read it. I am actually a physician, so I’ve been through an actual immunology class too. Please don’t be condescending.

          • Great. Then you should realize at least the possible dangers of over-vaccination and autoimmune issues related to it. I can’t say the flu vaccine will do that. I doubt anyone can claim long-term flu vaccine use won’t compromise the immune system functionality. I certainly should not have stated it “will” do you harm, but to think it definately won’t is just misinformed.

          • LVGuy

            No one said it definitely won’t harm you, but the risk of harm is so low that you’re more likely to fall out of bed and get struck by lightning on the same day.

            When it comes to science, I’ll trust the scientists.

          • I guess that depends on what you call “harm”. If you take the listed side effects, some of which can be uncomfortable, as “harm” then your statement is indeed unscientific. Certainly the chance of “harm” then is far better than the outrageous falling out of bed while getting struck by lightning.

            A vaccine, like any medicine, could possibly cause serious problems, such as severe allergic reactions. The risk of a vaccine causing serious harm, or death, is extremely small.

            Serious problems from inactivated influenza vaccine are very rare. The viruses in inactivated influenza vaccine have been killed, so you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.

            Mild Problems

            soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
            hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough, fever, aches

            If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last 1-2 days.

        • jslanger

          i will say it loks like an interesting read, and well written. I will read it more carefully later (at work currently).

          While I agree with its premise that we are altering immunologic responses and we DO increase the antibody response, it still requires cell-mediated immunity to complete the response to a virus when you are exposed to it (after the initial vaccination). Antibodies act as the initiator of the immune response (basically tagging antigens for removal). These then have to be taken up by cells, which process the virus/antigen, and then present these protein pieces in order to further activate the immune system.

          Giving a vaccine is essentially like exposing a person to the virus (thats ACTUALLY how the first vaccines were done). Some vaccines use protein derivatives from the virus or bacteria that are on the surface so that when the body sees that antigen again, it will respond.

          I am skeptical about the conclusion from this article, but I will read more later.

          • Thanks jslanger. I’d value your feedback here on it since you are a physician.

    • DSS10

      Yea, just ask Jim Henson! The flu can be devastating for a “healthy” person and the fear is that we will get a really, really, really nasty influenza outbreak some time in the near future that could really be a real public health emergency. By not getting the vaccine you help spread the virus to others, who are at risk such as the elderly and infants.

      • Lou

        I’m pretty sure this vaccine will not cure what Jim Henson had.

        • What a Scam

          He had galloping pneumonia, not influenza.

    • drax

      Thanks, Dr. Bush, for you expert commentary.

      • You’re wecome Mr. drax. Time to take your temperature. You look a little ill.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    I get a flu shot every year around mid-September. Better safe than sorry. One year about 15 years ago I didn’t get a flu shot and got one nasty case of the flu. Not again. +

    • BM, I’ve never had one and I almost never get sick. Maybe I’m lucky or just eat the right things, but I believe by taking the shot I’m babying my immune system. I think it is healthier to keep my immune system well-tuned by letting it fight off typical things so that it is ready for the big fight when that should happen. Of course, as I age I’ll need to reconsider this more since my immune system will get weaker with time. But, for now, I’m still in the mode of immune system training/strengthening and I don’t get sick.

      • drax

        You clearly have no idea how the immune system works. Stop making up stuff about a topic you don’t understand.

        • Tell us drax, how does it work?

          • drax

            I know how it doesn’t work.

          • I didn’t think you knew.

        • R0bespierre

          Bollocks, drax! The immune system is a MUSCLE!

      • Glebe Roader

        I agree with Bush. Maybe I don’t know “how the immune system works” either but I know how my body works. I don’t get a flu shot and I don’t get the flu.

        Remember the H1N1 “scare?” Health departments aren’t always right. There’s a level of politics with their recommendations.

        Maybe if the flu vaccine were available in a “smokable” variety, we could get Nova Steve in on this one.

        • LVGuy

          The scare was very real. People who don’t normally die from the flu, namely young people, were dying from it at unusual rates, and it was being spread during the northern summer in hot and humid conditions. It’s true that it killed fewer people than a “normal” flu, but we didn’t see it spread as widely as it could have partly because health departments set up a great way to administer the vaccine. The reaction to H1N1 virus, at least among those in the health care community, is a model of how to control a pandemic.

          • R0bespierre

            Just to toss in some anecdote, I never get flu shots either. Not due to some principle, I just hadn’t gotten the flu in 25 years. I did get the flu last year and it sucked. But it was bearable. I get MMR shots and what not, and believe vaccination is a good idea, but my personal risk analysis on the flu tends to have me skipping the shot, more often than not, because my winters have been flu-free 96% of the time.

            Colds however…I get like 3-4 a year. I would bathe myself in molten cold vaccine, smoke it, and even insert it in my anus with an applicator if it meant I could avoid those. TMI? lolze

          • LVGuy

            Last year in my workplace there was a flu going around which I contracted, despite having the vaccine. One person, however, is not an accurate measurement of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Worldwide incidence, however, has gone down since the vaccine was introduced, and I believe the vaccine has played a role in that.

            Yes, I agree with you on the issue of the cold vaccine. I would do just about anything to get one. Whoever develops a vaccine will be the wealthiest person in the world.

        • drax

          Most people don’t get the flu. Doesn’t mean flu shots don’t work. You are a sample size of one.

          “Remember the H1N1 “scare?” Health departments aren’t always right. ”

          Nobody said that. But it’s cheaper and easier to get a flu shot than to die of the flu. No, wait, it’s cheaper and easier to die, just less fun.

          • Jeffery Magnus

            I do not believe your citation above that 30,000 people in the US die every year from the flu. The population, according to the US Government, is about 307 million. So, 0.0098% of the United States dies each year of the flu (according to you). Now, many of those are elderly or weak who should be taking the flu shot anyway to protect themselves. So, how do you justify mass vaccination? The second-hand smoke argument is more valid.

          • dk

            Influenza-related deaths in the US:

            Death rates are estimates only and vary widely from year to year. CDC estimates that the number of flu-related deaths over the past 31 years ranges from ~3,000 to ~49,000.

            During seasons when influenza A (H3N2) viruses were prominent, death rates were more than double what they were during seasons when influenza A (H1N1) or influenza B viruses predominated.

            About 90% of influenza associated deaths occur among adults 65 years and older.

            On average, only 8.5% of all pneumonia and influenza deaths and only 2.1% of all respiratory and circulatory deaths were influenza-related.


        • drax


          Did it occur to you that the reason H1N1 didn’t become an epidemic was BECAUSE of the immunizations, not in spite of them?

          • Chris

            Drax, I appreciate your fight here (and elsewhere on Arlnow!). I feel like we are frequently of the same mind.

        • Jeffery Magnus

          Just don’t smoke it near an Arlington park!

          I agree with OB as well. I don’t get a flu shot.

      • Suburban Not Urban

        One piece of real data that you are overlooking – is the real world history of vaccinations virtually wiping out some diseases like Polio etc. in the real world. If it worked the way you are thinking, it would have been better not to have those programs.

        • E Jacob Rulus

          It isn’t really fair to compare Polio to the flu.

        • And yet vaccination in Africa made the spread of HIV possible. No, really–read this incredible NY Times article about it:

          “In the 1920s, machine-made glass syringes replaced expensive hand-blown ones, and the Belgians and French attacked many diseases in their colonies, both out of paternalism and to create herd immunity to protect whites. Patients might get up to 300 shots in a lifetime. Other diseases have spread this way; an Egyptian campaign against schistosomiasis ended in 1980 after giving more than half its “beneficiaries” hepatitis C.”

  • Novasteve

    I doubt many people here have actually ever had the flu before. The thing that makes you feel bad, and you might have missed a day of work, IS NOT the flu. Flu makes you bed ridden.

  • Clarendon

    The picture associated with this article seems like it could be an exhibit at the Artisphere.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Heehee, good one Clarendon!

  • Floozy

    One thing I read recently that I found fascinating: A study found that with the common cold, it’s not the virus itself that causes the usual symptoms, but the immune response to the virus. So someone with a stronger immune system would actually be more likely to over-react to the cold virus and experience sneezing, fever, etc.

    Nothing to do with the flu, just interesting.

    • Lou

      This is along the same vein as “better athletes sweat more under similar conditions”. Their systems are just geared to run higher than other people. People with more aggressive immune systems will have runnier noses because the body is trying to remove the germs.

    • dk

      I read about this too–so fascinating. I tend to be the one in my family who is leveled by colds that barely affect others in the household. I like to brag that I clearly have the strongest immune system, but so far no one indicates a willingness to trade systems with me.

  • NorthArlingTim

    Seems like every time I get a flu shot, I end up sick for weeks and eventually get pneumonia. When I don’t get one, I’m fine. I agree with What A Scam – quote: “can’t help but notice that despite this tiresome annual mantra about the flu shot, people keep getting the flu–and I don’t.”

    • Gerbils & H8

      Yeah, that’s kind of like snake-stones.

      You get bitten, and you use the stupid stone as some kind of periapt, and you recover. Well, maybe the snake didn’t use very much venom because it wasn’t that threatened, maybe it was out after killing prey animals & defending itself earlier, or maybe it just didn’t latch on properly. Regardless, try using that stone when you get a significant envenomation and see how well it works.

      You may have an immune system that performs exceptionally well against the flu, and/or you might just be damned lucky. Either way, science (and, hence, vaccines) continues to work, and believing otherwise is folly that might lead you to some really high-consequence foolish decisions down the road.

  • DSS10

    Wow the Dunning–Kruger effect is in full effect in Arlington!


    • Chris

      Wow, this totally explains the Tea party.

  • JimPB

    Get the flu shot — I did. The flu can kill. At best it’s a drag. But be aware that the % of persons the flu shot protects and the degree of protection it provides varies substantially. So other preventive measures should be taken, e.g., hand washing; and there is one report of high levels of vitamin D supplemental providing highly effective protection.

  • LVGuy

    Thanks, Arlnow, for reminding everyone how important the flu vaccine is! It’s a great public service you’re doing.

  • BoredHouseWife

    Flu shots are good for those with weak immune systems. Getting a flu shot yearly may weaken a strong immune system.
    based off of evolutionary theory and the entire field of genomics.

    if all you do is give your body weak viruses, your immune system will adapt to that environment.

    • Chris

      Wow…. no. Though I liked how you “cited” evolutionary theory and “the entire field of genomics” (not just one aspect, but the whole thing goes to support your wild speculation).

      I suspect BoredHouseWife found the liquor cabinet.


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