Flu Shot Controversy Escalates

Source: Samantha Henze

The flu season not only brings about an increased number of ill persons, but also a great controversy over the vaccination. M-A exhibits a generally evenly split population with regard to this controversy.

Samantha Henze

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As another flu season commences, the controversy over the most common method of preventing infection, the flu shot, emerges once again. The Menlo-Atherton student body and staff both largely exhibit an abstinence from the vaccination this year, the majority holding some of the most common objections to the shot: unnatural injection, inconvenience, and ineffectiveness.

The flu rapidly escalated this year, and since September 30, more than 15,000 flu cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 16 pediatric deaths. This is not only a particularly early start to the flu season, but also a larger group of infected people than customary.

Because of the gravity of the 2013 virus, many hospitals have been implementing mandatory prevention requirements. In September, Indiana University Health Goshen Hospital implemented one such mandate, which obliged all staff members to get the flu shot in an effort to promote patient safety based on recommendations from the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This mandate sparked immediate controversy, as many people are, and always have been, opposed to the flu vaccination. In fact, fewer than 40 percent of Americans have received the flu vaccine this year even though the virus is projected to be much worse than usual.

Out of 30 staff members from Menlo-Atherton High that were interviewed, only nine answered that they had received their flu shot this year, while 21 said they had not.

According to a CDC study, the most common complaint among Americans is that they “got the flu anyway”. People also view the shot as a possible source of the virus itself.

M-A ceramics teacher Mike Burton-Tillson argues in agreement with the populace: “I don’t think I should inject myself with the flu by getting the shot.”

In addition, many people either disagree with or fear the unnatural toxins or elements that the shot may contain, such as mercury.

Kristen Budde, a Spanish teacher at M-A, contends, “I don’t think you should put anything into your body that you don’t get naturally.” Similarly, Vice Principal Steve Lippi shares, “I’d rather build up my immunity naturally rather than rely on the shot.”

Spanish teacher, Margie Osborn simply believes that “they don’t have a high enough percentage of effectiveness.”

Many hold this same objection to the flu vaccine, and some critics even claim that it is no better than a placebo.

The past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner, admits that “it’s a good vaccine, but not a perfect vaccine.” However, he does counter these skeptics in claiming that it is “able to prevent 60-70 percent of all infections, and those it doesn’t prevent, it often makes milder.”

Local pediatrician Eileen Chan, from Pediatric Wellness Group, believes that “it is a good idea for anyone who is able to get the vaccine and who is not allergic to a component of the vaccine to get it.”

Dr. Chan also raises another practical reason to take precaution with regard to this virus.

“A lot comes into play here, not just the serious health risk, but also the inability to attend school, which can be really tough for high school students. Or for a parent who gets sick and is not able to take care of their children or go to work. These are just everyday inconveniences that can accompany the virus,” she adds.

Michael Specter, a writer for the Week magazine, also promotes the vaccine by likening the refrain from flu shots, hoping to avoid the flu, to the refrain from condoms, hoping to avoid sexually transmitted diseases – simply irrational.

Many high-schoolers feel that they have resilient bodies that can fend off the flu, even though the CDC “recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get the annual flu vaccine.”

A more even split than exhibited in the faculty poll occurred between high school students at M-A who have received the flu shot, and those who have not. 98 students, out of 200 polled, claimed that have not yet acquired the flu vaccine.

Many share similar concerns with the shot regarding its effectiveness or necessity. A majority of the group that answered they had not received it shared that they simply “don’t like shots.”

History teacher, Alan Perry, similarly asserted that he does “not want to stand in line to get stabbed,” and Chemistry teacher, Goarine Nersesian, claimed that she “would rather get the flu than the shot.”

Even with a heightened danger in the virus this year, many people continue to refrain from the vaccination as they always have, and the controversy over flu shots persists, both on the campus of Menlo-Atherton High School, and more broadly, all over America.


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14 Responses to “Flu Shot Controversy Escalates”

  1. shoover on January 29th, 2013 8:54 pm

    I had no idea that there was such a controversy associated with flu shots. I also find it interesting that some people cited the fact that they would rather build up immunity than get the shot, because it’s nearly impossible to build up an immunity to the flu virus since it’s constantly changing (which is why the flu vaccine is different each year.)

  2. egrose on January 31st, 2013 7:36 pm

    I also didn’t know that flu shots were a controversial topic. I find that as a high school student, even if the shot is not completely effective at protecting against a strain of the virus (especially because there are so many flu strains), I would rather receive a shot that might help me avoid the flu rather than have an increased chance of having to miss school for a week, or even more.

  3. rgordan on January 31st, 2013 8:56 pm

    For me, it’s not that I actively decided against taking a flu shot. It’s more that I never really get around to getting it.

  4. Nolan Martin on January 31st, 2013 8:58 pm

    I am stunned every year by the reasons people give for refraining from getting the flu shot. One would think that teachers, who are exposed to germs from students everyday, would be interested in protecting themselves, especially when their absence may be very detrimental to their classes.

    Just because you get the flu after receiving the shot doesn’t mean it isn’t worth getting ever again. For a relatively low fee, you significantly reduce your chances of contracting a harsh disease. If you happen to be a part of the minority that catches the flu after the shot, better luck next season; don’t just give up.

    The variety of negative arguments seems limitless. Some people cite their fear of needles; while understandable, there is no reason to deny receiving the nasal spray vaccine. Others take a radical approach against nearly all vaccines, refusing to believe that injecting the disease as a matter of course will help strengthen the immune system in fighting the disease. Vaccines work by giving the immune system a strain of the disease so that the body is aware of what to look out for in a world of evolving diseases. The beauty of science is that regardless of whether or not you believe in it, it’s true. A few fear the “unnatural” elements in the vaccine solution. The only people who only take in substances that they get naturally are cannibals. Most medicines have “unnatural” ingredients, from antibiotics to ibuprofen. Students are required to get immunizations against diseases like hepatitis; people who don’t immunize selfishly live off the protection afforded by the immunizations that everyone else has received. If the beliefs like these continue to spread across the country, perhaps natural selection will take action and kill them with polio.

    Some complain that the shot is not effective enough. The majority of people who receive it do not contract the flu. It is 60% give or take a few percent effective! Hold out for 100% effectiveness and you’re likely to catch the flu first.

    The flu evolves each year. The only way to build up natural immunity is to contract the disease. Great, you’re immune, but only after a severe bout of flu every year. I hate to call people who want to build up natural immunity Luddites, but vaccination is an effective way to build up immunity and there is no significant advantage to denying yourself the protection. A look at roads today reveals that most people drive cars and trucks, not horse-drawn carriages. Why insist on placing yourself in the dark ages of medicine when men and women have devoted their lives to the creation of new, powerful vaccines? To argue that you’d rather build up natural immunity is to deny and void the efforts of these researchers who have discovered a reasonable way to protect against diseases. The question goes for all rejectors of vaccinations: What is the point in denying yourself the qualities of modern medicine?

    David Schmitt Reply:

    Absolutely agree about the changing flu. That’s why I dislike people who religiously use Purell; they’re just harming people who actually need to defend against the virus by allowing the virus to mutate

  5. sparish on January 31st, 2013 9:09 pm

    Like a few others, I didn’t think flu shots were a controversial subject….I’m like quite a few of the people interviewed, as I haven’t gotten a flu shot because needles scare me

    Will Hanley Reply:

    Does your fear of needles outweigh the need to get vaccinated? Or do you overcome your fear every flu season?

    sparish Reply:

    Well I can either await getting a shot and be extremely nervous and then scream in the doctor’s office (I’m only like 5 years old mentally when it comes to needles) or risk getting the flu. And I’ve never gotten the flu so its not too bad for me.

    Nolan Martin Reply:

    Let’s not forget that there is a nasal spray vaccine that remains an option for those of us who have needlephobia

  6. jpfau on February 1st, 2013 4:04 pm

    I for one have never gotten a flu shot, neither have I gotten the flu.

  7. Sarah on February 1st, 2013 8:07 pm

    Thank god i got my shot, i hope MA isent too seriously damaged by this bout of the virus

  8. amacfarlane on February 1st, 2013 8:45 pm

    Get a flu shot, if you have time. I have been getting the shot since I was little, and have never had any problems with it, and if it has helped me stay healthy, then I am grateful. Of course it is not 100% effective, but it is carefully developed and designed to help. Irrational fear doesn’t help anybody, though I do understand that nobody likes getting shots. But if possible, try to go to your doctor and get one!

  9. bwiener on February 5th, 2013 5:49 pm

    Some of the quotes from those interviewed for this article are appallingly ignorant. There are very few logical reasons for not getting a flu shot, and none of the ones given in this article make any sense whatsoever.

    Rachel Fox Reply:

    If you are in a place where you encounter children or elderly people, you’re required to get the flu shot because the flu is hugely dangerous for the elderly and for young children. It’s not only yourself you have to think about here but who you expose to the virus as well. This article was not balanced very well, to be honest, and some of these opinions are also kind of scary.

Flu Shot Controversy Escalates