Head-to-head: deciding to get the flu shot
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Head-to-head: deciding to get the flu shot

Get the flu shot

Column by Michael Geheren

Protecting yourself from Influenza with a vaccine is one of the most important things you can do for preventative health.

Many Americans seem to have a false sense of complacency with the flu. Since 1970, flu deaths per season have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

While the disease can mimic the common cold in many ways, it is far greater of a risk.

There seem to be two arguments against the flu vaccine this year.

The first is the recently popular anti-vaccine movement. This is ridiculous — the health care resources in the U.S. are so much more advanced than other countries. We should be taking advantage of the medical achievements we have made in this country.

Take for instance the recent measles outbreak these past few weeks. There have been 14 reported cases in South Dakota according to the state’s Department of Health.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in an interview with The Huffington Post last week the perfect reason why people should be vaccinated.

“(Women in developing countries) will walk 10 kilometers in the heat with their child and line up to get a vaccine because they have seen death,” Gates said.

Measles was basically eradicated in the U.S. until recently. The outbreak that occurred at Disneyland and has since spread across the country would never have happened if it wasn’t for the anti-vaccination movement.

The flu shot, except for some cases of allergies, is very safe. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration monitor negative effects through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. When debating whether to get the vaccination due to allergies or just a fear, it is best to speak with a physician rather than just read the Internet and listen to the Jenny McCarthey’s of the world.

The other major factor against the flu shot this year is the effectiveness. A Jan. 16 report showed the flu vaccine this year only reduced the risk of having to go to the doctor for the flu by 23 percent. The effectiveness has ranged from 10 to 60 percent in the last decade.

“These early, low (vaccine effectiveness) estimates underscore the need for ongoing influenza prevention and treatment measures,” the CDC said in the report.

I certainly agree — the CDC needs to develop additional measures to ensure prevention. However, there are still valid reasons for getting the flu vaccine this year.

The reason for the lack of effectiveness is the difference between the strands of flu between production and what is actually circulating. The vaccine was produced for the H3N2 strand of the flu, but shortly after production, the flu in the U.S. drifted from the type of H3N2 vaccine developed.

The CDC recommends people still get vaccinated because, even though the stand has drifted, the flu shot can still protect against some other infections that can lead to hospitalization or death.

The vaccine also protects against two or three other strands, depending on the vaccine you received. These strands may still circulate this season, the CDC said.

Vaccination is such a modern marvel of technological and medical achievements. It is something too many people take for granted. Does there need to be improvements? Of course. However, we are further than any generation before us in preventing diseases.

There is a concept called Community Immunity. Basically, when a large portion of the population is vaccinated, there is little opportunity for an outbreak. By not getting vaccinated you aren’t just risking your health — you are risking the health of everyone around you.


Don’t get the flu shot

Column by Katie McGuire

University of South Dakota students are at risk of sharing many different illnesses, with one of the most common being the common cold, and in some cases, the flu.

One of many safety preventions students can take is getting a flu shot, whether it be on campus or at a local health care provider. I received a flu shot. However, I must question how effective the shot is, especially this year, as many people in South Dakota have died from the flu.

Now, I will acknowledge the flu shot does not cover every strand of the flu, but this helps prove my very point — is it even worth it?

One major concern for those who receive the shot is its side effects. Although few are fatal, the risks include getting a fever and body aches. Personally, I’m willing to take the chance, assuming I’m protected from an illness far worse.

According to WebMD, this year’s flu vaccine is less effective than planned, which means I suffered a fever and aches for nothing.

I understand it is hard to find the right flu strand to fight against, but the number of people hit hard by the flu is astounding this year, as noted by a Jan. 12 article by the Argus Leader.

As of Jan. 9, the flu has left 245 people in the hospital and 12 dead in South Dakota, while 480 cases  of the flu have been confirmed in the state.

It is your choice whether or not you receive a flu shot. But either way, even if you feel a sniffle coming on, I would suggest going to the doctor — it is free, after all.

Just the other day, a girl in my class announced she had the flu and then distributed papers to the rest of us. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to skip out on touching the papers.

Living in close proximity to one another on campus put us at a higher risk than most people. Although our bodies are at their prime in fighting infection, if we are constantly coming into contact with others who are sick, there is a great chance we will catch whatever they have.

Take me for instance. I somehow managed to get sick three times, which included pneumonia, since the fall semester. I chalk it up to be because I live in a dorm and attend classes with others who are sick.

A common cold can easily turn into the flu, and luckily I took the necessary precautions to alleviate my cold before it could progress. But if I didn’t, would my vaccine help? The answer is no, and I’d be out of luck — and class.

Get the flu shot or don’t, but keep in mind it has not protected everyone this year.