Thursday, December 20, 2012

Flu Shot vs Tamiflu

Every year, beginning shortly after summer, you begin to see advertisements for the flu shot. I used to always hem and haw about whether I should, or should not get the flu shot, as I have not had the flu in over 30 years, and have no recollection of just how miserable it can be. But with all of the controversy and the arguments, for and against the shot, you wonder what is best for you.

Many people argue that the only reason doctors suggest a flu shot is that they make money from doing so. This may be true; however, you do not even need a doctor’s prescription or office visit to get the flu shot. You can walk into just about any drug store, Walmart or Costco and choose to get the flu shot; no doctor required. I believe that doctors would actually make MORE money by seeing patients that are sick with the flu, so that theory does not quite fly, although, I am sure that someone is profiting!

Statistically speaking more than 200,000 people in the US alone are hospitalized each year, due to the flu and there are between 3,000 to 49,000 deaths, which are flu related. I understand that there are risks to receiving the flu shot, but I also believe the minimal risks that you may encounter, are far fewer than the risks of actually having the flu or ingesting Tamiflu.

I am certain that the people that had Polio, and lost children to Polio, would have loved to been given the opportunity to receive a vaccine, that would have prevented their Polio. Same goes with Mumps and Measles, sometimes, the risk of the vaccine far outweighs the risks of the disease or infection. I know that many people are under the assumption that the flu shot only prevents one strain of the flu, but my research states that it actually prevents four strains of influenza. Fact of the matter is that the flu shot is targeted to prevent the most prevalent strain of the flu, so while it may not prevent all types of influenza, it does prevent the strain of flu that you are most likely to be exposed to.

Tamiflu is given to children, one year and older, that are having symptoms of the flu. It is not designed to be a substitution for the flu vaccine. It is said to lessen the symptoms of the flu and to possibly reduce the risk of getting the flu. There is no data in pregnant women and the side effects of Tamiflu are far worse than the side effects of the flu vaccine. I personally would prefer the sore arm from the shot than the vomiting and nausea that may accompany taking Tamiflu. Why some think that risking taking Tamiflu is a lesser risk than having the Flu vaccine, I do not know. So, maybe someone can enlighten me, as the research that I have done does not support this.

I believe that just like the flu vaccine, doctors, or someone, will be making money on the Tamiflu, too. Who is to say where more money will be made; on the vaccine or the Tamiflu? I would like to think that the one-time vaccine vs the week long ingestion of a medication, would be less risky, and less costly, but I suppose that like most medical things, we, as patients will never know the real, true answer. I do know that a patient WITH the flu will make the most money, for doctors, especially if they are hospitalized.

So, what I do know is that since I have leukemia, I have a compromised immune system and I will do whatever it takes to decrease my risk of getting the flu. My neighbor, who is a nurse, had never gotten a flu shot; that is, until she saw how sick her husband was when he got the flu. They are both in their early thirties, young and healthy, but she said that she would never risk not getting the flu vaccine again, after she saw how ill her husband was. She said that it was terribly frightening. It was this that led me to my first flu shot, five years ago.

My oncologist recommends the flu shot for all of his patients, and also gets one himself; as does his staff. I suppose I will never know whether it is the flu shot, or the fact that I was not exposed to the flu, but I think that I will always be in favor of taking the poke in the arm!

I see the posts on Facebook and hear how sick people are when they have the flu and I am so fortunate that I have been able to avoid it. Of course, I am extremely careful and make certain to stay away from people that have the flu, I don’t touch railings when I am out in public, use sanitary wipes on shopping carts and wash my hands constantly, so whether it is the flu shot or just plain diligence and good luck, I do not know. But here is hoping that you all stay healthy, regardless of your convictions.


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