Written by Dr. Tanya Wylde, Naturopathic Doctor
For those individuals who decide to vaccinate with the seasonal flu vaccine, it is important to remember that these vaccines are designed to protect against infection and illness caused by the three flu viruses research indicates will be the most common this season. This means that the flu vaccine will not protect against the 200 other viruses that can cause flu-like symptoms and result in flu-like illness. (1) This is why it’s important to work on your immune system and your children’s immune systems through the fall and winter regardless if you chose to vaccinate with the flu vaccine. Many of my patients, friends and family ask whether or not I recommend they get the flu vaccine. Most conventional doctors would answer with, “absolutely, yes”, many alternative health care practitioners would answer with “no, absolutely not”. However, this is an individual decision- one that you need to make for yourself. What’s important is you assess your risk as an individual. You may consider getting the flu vaccine if you’ve had the flu before and have had complications from it or if you are at high risk of developing flu-related complications because of a medical condition you may already have.(2) According to the CDC recent studies show the flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu illness by about 60% among the overall population…of course it’s only this high when researchers select the correct strains for that given season; ie. when most circulating flu viruses are like the viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against.(3)
Just as the flu vaccine has been shown to be effective there are also components about it that are not effective. Not everyone who gets the flu vaccine becomes resistant to the strains of flu included in the vaccine, it really depends on the individual’s response.(3) Some people who get the flu vaccine get side effects such as Guillain-Barre syndrome(4) and flu like symptoms from the flu vaccine itself(5) . My biggest concern with the flu vaccine is that sometimes the researchers aren’t correct in selecting the proper strains of flu virus for that given season therefore the effectiveness would not be as high as 60%. My other concern is that the flu vaccine contains thimerosal (mercury) as a preservative. According to the public health agency of Canada [there are two thimerosal-free influenza vaccines approved for sale in Canada, however they are not currently available for publicly funded programs. Thimerosal will continue to be used in multi-dose vaccines until a safe alternative is found. Pharmaceutical companies are actively working on alternatives to thimerosal as a preservative].(6) I am not anti-vaccine. I am just not convinced of the effectiveness of the flu-vaccine for every given season. However, it is the general consensus that vaccination is still considered the best protection against getting the flu(7), just not effective for every flu season, for all strains of the flu and against the other 200 different viruses that circulate and can cause the common colds with flu-like symptoms. Colds generally do not cause serious complications, such as pneumonia, or lead to hospitalization; the flu sometimes does.(4) I personally experienced a true flu (Influenza A) illness (and not just the common cold with flu-like symptoms) back in the year 1999 when working as a co-op Kinesiology student at the Huronia Regional Centre, a residence for developmentally challenged adults, which resulted in a large quarantine of the Centre. Let me tell you, it was not a fun week (I slept most of it away) but we all got through the illness stronger and more resilient than before. I think I would have been so much better off if I had the knowledge I now have regarding natural medicines ability to prevent and treat viruses, and shorten the duration of the symptoms of the common cold and flu. See my blog titled Evidenced based naturopathic treatments to prevent and treat colds and flus” so you can also become equipped with the knowledge that I have gained as a naturopathic doctor on this subject. To me the ironic part was that my doctor at the time didn’t know what to do and prescribed antibiotics for my co-workers and I, even though the flu is caused by a virus, which of course I didn’t take because even then it didn’t make sense to me. See my blog titled “ Antibiotics are not meant to treat viruses” for more information on when antibiotics are and aren’t appropriate.
Bottom line, whether or not you decide to vaccinate with the flu vaccine, you can still work on your immune system through cold and flu season since the stronger you are the less likely the virus will take over your body and the quicker the recovery time if you do end up contracting one. I’m not encouraging you to avoid the flu vaccine, I simply think you need to make an informed decision and have alternatives in the event that you chose not to vaccinate. There is no guarantee that my recommendations will prevent you from getting the flu, they will simply support your immune system, potentially evading the flu and potentially help your body to handle the flu better in the even that you get it. Should you decide to get the flu vaccine, I still recommend you support your immune system, since there is no evidence that the flu vaccine is 100% effective.
~ Tanya Wylde, BSc, CPT, ND, Naturopathic Doctor
For Tanya’s Facebook page: Dr.TanyaWylde, Naturopathic Doctor
Originally published on: Naturally Down To Earth
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Sources for this article:
 Seasonal Influenza, Key Facts about Seasonal Flu Vaccine. (2013, September 19) Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm
 Seasonal Influenza (Flu) People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related (2013, September 18) Complications Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm
 Seasonal Influenza, Vaccine Effectiveness, How Well Does The Flu Vaccine Work? (2013, March 15) Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm
 Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Guillan Barre Syndrome (2013, August 23rd) Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/guillainbarre.htm
 Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu (2013, May 20)Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm
 Thimerosal in Vaccines and Autism, Question & Answers. (2012, February 21) Retrieved from http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/im/q_a_thimerosal-eng.php
 National Institutes for Health. National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine-The Flu The Common Cold, and Complementary Health Approaches (2013, April) Retrieved from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/flu/ataglance.htm