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Flu Vaccine Excuses

Learn some common excuses for not getting the flu vaccine, and some key information relevant to each one. These videos do not provide medical advice and are for informational purposes only. The videos are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen in any Khan Academy video. Created by Stanford School of Medicine.

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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Ari Mendelson
    Would it be correct to say that those with egg allergies should NOT get the flu shot. (I know this is not medical advice, but I'm curious, not looking for guidance). I have two sons with egg allergies. When I asked their allergist (and I'm sticking with his advice) whether they should get flu shots I was told, "make sure they have a crash cart handy."

    Would that mean that the flu vaccine has eggs in it? Are there any types without egg?
    (14 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Ken Hicks
      The common flu vaccines are grown using chicken eggs. There is a new flu vaccine called Flublok that doesn't use eggs that has been approved by the FDA, but I'm not familiar with it beyond that. You may want to ask your doctor if it's available and a viable option for your children.
      (10 votes)
  • mr pink red style avatar for user Eric McLean
    With all this worry about being immunized stemming from the chemicals used in the vaccines why was this topic not touched on? Am I the only one who feel this discussion to be more or a reinforcement towards getting a flu shot than stating all, or at least most, of the available information? I would have also appreciated knowing more about the cons than being inundated with all of the pros towards getting a flu shot.
    (12 votes)
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    • male robot hal style avatar for user Ken Hicks
      Well, part of the reason it doesn't delve significantly into the arguments regarding safety of the chemicals likely has to do with the use of thimerosal. Thimerosal's a mercury-based preservative that many people have heard the name of and some groups believe causes increased incidents of autism, but there have been repeated scientific studies showing no evidence of any link. Despite this, there are many parents that avoid vaccines, even those not containing thimerosal. I'm honestly unfamiliar with any serious concerns regarding vaccines beyond allergies that affect only a very small portion of the population.
      (5 votes)
  • leaf green style avatar for user 福龍丸
    In my part of the world, usually only kids, the elderly and otherwise frail individuals do get the flu shot. Isn't it more realistic, in a strictly scientific sense, to require only this demographic to take precautions, compared to what this video seems to be suggesting (i.e. vaccination for everyone)?
    (5 votes)
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    • piceratops sapling style avatar for user S. Ann Ran
      There are many who cannot get a flu shot at all within the communities you mentioned (elderly, frail, kids); they must depend on herd immunity for the flu not to get to them at all. By vaccinating those who can be vaccinated, herd immunity is raised such that those who can't, are still protected. This herd immunity reasoning is the reasoning behind most medical professionals being strongly urged to be vaccinated, to protect their most vulnerable patients.
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user C Barfield
    Is one kind of vaccine better then the other? Does it give the same protection?
    (3 votes)
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  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Kathleen
    According to the video, the vaccine made available each year is based on the flu virus that is circulating that year. How is this determined if the event has not happened yet?
    (2 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Rebekah
      Scientists study the viruses that are around now by getting samples of them. They figure out which viruses are newer, more lively, and more likely to cause trouble. Then they make predictions on which three of those lively viruses are most likely to cause the most damage. These are then selected for the flu shot.
      Hope this helps :)
      (2 votes)
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Shahrukh Saeed
    Why can`t everybody just use the nasal spray
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Susan Jaracz
    So, great. I not only get sick when I get the flu shot. I get dang sick three or four times in the year after. When I don't get the virus, I get sick 0-2 times in the season. So not an excuse, just an observation.
    (1 vote)
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  • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Nobody/ElectrifyPro
    Isn't "I got sick anyway" and "The shot made me sick" the same?
    (1 vote)
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    • leaf red style avatar for user Ingmar
      I suppose "I got sick anyway" means the person is not satisfied with the vaccine thinking it would prevent all the symptoms of flu/common-cold (not just influenza) whereas "the shot made me sick" would imply that he/she encountered some side-effects soon after the vaccine shot.
      (1 vote)
  • winston default style avatar for user Christopher H
    Why would people make excuses about the flu vaccine,even though it can protect you? It's simply human that we are not protected from bacteria and viruses.
    (0 votes)
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    • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user fake consultant
      Actually...we're born with a pretty good system of protection against bactria and viruses already in place. Here's what The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia's Dr. Paul A. Offit has to say:

      “Babies emerge from the relatively sterile environment of the womb into a world teeming with bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms, and their immune systems are designed to stand up to these challenges from the start. Newborns have billions of immunologic cells that are capable of responding to millions of different microorganisms. By quickly making an immune response to bacteria that live on the surface of their intestines, for example, babies are able to keep those bacteria from invading their bloodstream and causing serious disease.”

      But let's get to the bigger question: why do folks avoid the flu vaccine?

      Some don't like needles, I suspect. Other folks avoid medical attention generally; for them a flu shot would be quite a change from their regular lifestyle.

      Some don't have access to care or the money to afford the shots.

      There are lots of other reasons; writer Tara Halle lists 25 of 'em in an article right here (http://www.redwineandapplesauce.com/2013/10/28/setting-the-record-straight-dubunking-all-the-flu-vaccine-myths/). If you really want a exhaustive answer, hers is the article i would suggest you check out.
      (0 votes)

Video transcript

Voiceover: Despite the fact that a highly effective influenza vaccine is available every year, some people choose not to get vaccinated and as a result they're not protected against the circulating influenza strains. So, whether you're out in the community at a vaccine clinic or even talking to family and friends you might come across some excuses as to why people aren't getting vaccinated. So, I thought it might be helpful to address the top five excuses that we've heard in the past and how to best address them. So, the first excuse you might hear is, "I never get sick. I'm not getting vaccinated this year because I've never had the flu." Well, to this I would say people who have never been in a car accident still wear their seatbelts right? Why wait for a bad thing to happen when you can prevent it from happening in the first place. It doesn't make sense to me to wait to get sick with the flu when there's a safe and effective vaccine that you can get at the beginning of the flu season and protect yourself for months. Okay, so another excuse you might hear is, "I got the flu shot last year, and it made me sick. I felt awful afterwards." So, some people can have adverse reactions to the influenza vaccine. So, after making sure that this person didn't have an adverse reaction like an allergic response or some other kind of complication, I would say, "Well, imagine if a completely inactivated, or weakened virus in the influenza vaccine was enough to get your immune system to put up a fight and make you feel sick, imagine what a live strong virus could do to you. Getting sick with the circulating virus will make you feel much worse, and so it's best to prevent yourself from getting a bad illness. Another excuse you might here is, "The flu shot didn't work. I got sick anyway." First I would say, "Well, are you sure that you were sick with the influenza virus?" Flu-like symptoms can be caused by tons of different kinds of viruses and a few bacterial species as well. The influenza vaccine is not a magic bullet. It doesn't prevent all kinds of infections from happening. But perhaps you were infected with an influenza virus that got you sick. Remember the influenza vaccine only protects against a few strains, the most common strains that will be circulating in that season. So it's possible that you got sick with another circulating strain that wasn't covered by the vaccine. So, with this information some people might say, "Wait a minute, if I can still get sick from the influenza virus then what's the point?" Like I said, the annual vaccine protects against the most common influenza strains for that particular season. So it reduces your chance of getting sick significantly. Does it eliminate the risk completely? Well, no, but that doesn't mean that it's not worthwhile. So the most common excuse we hear is, "The flu shot hurts. I don't want a needle in my arm. I just don't think it's worth it." For people who are particularly pain averse, like I said before, there is a nasal spray available that doesn't involve needles at all. So, they can still protect themselves without getting injected. However, you know the flu shot if you are going to get vaccinated with the intramuscular injection the flu shot does hurt, but what hurts even more is getting sick with the flu. I would much rather be sore for a few days than be stuck in bed missing school, missing work and potentially putting the people around me at risk of getting infected. With this information hopefully we can combat some of the excuses and get more people vaccinated and protected against the flu.