Give flu shots a shot

Illustration by Tanner Tricori.

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It’s that time of year again. The weather is getting colder, Christmas decorations are already up in every store, and the flu virus is ready to make its way around campus. Flu season hasarrived but that doesn’t meanthe suffering is unavoidable.

The flu vaccine is currently being offered at various locations around Spearfish. However, many people won’t get the vaccine for a variety of reasons.

“I don’t get the flu, so I don’t need the flu vaccine,” said Black Hills resident Kasey Spaur. But for those with less than impervious immune systems, here are the facts.

According to the CDC, 20 percent of U.S. citizens get the flu each year and 3,000-49,000 yearly deaths are related to exposure to the flu virus. However, for the college-age demographic, this outcome is highly unlikely. Excluding the threat of death, the rapid onset of fatigue, aches, chills, headache and high fever can easily be described as miserable. And the close living conditions on college campuses allow the flu virus to spread at alarming rates.

For many though, this potential suffering does not outweigh the risks of the flu shot.

The most common complaints usually involve the side effects of the flu vaccine. All immunizations have side effects. The annual flu shot can cause soreness, redness or swelling at site of injection and flu-like symptoms’which can lead to the belief that the flu shot causes what it’s supposed to prevent.

Other issues include concerns about how flu strains are chosen for the vaccine. The Vaccination Risk Awareness Network even claims that flu shots are cultivated from the viruses found in Asian ducks. Other groups such as UndergroundHealth.com are concerned with the possibility of nerve damage and the effectiveness of the vaccine.

However, the CDC admits the possibility of these side effects but reassures that the incidence is extremely low and that the discomfort from the shot is much less than the complications that come with the flu. They also explain that while it is difficult to predict which flu strains will be the most prevalent for the coming year, even a “less than ideal match” can develop antibodies that can protect against other flu types.

In addition, WebMD.com addresses the concerns on the effectiveness of the vaccine. “Sometimes, people who get vaccinated during the flu season catch the flu in the two weeks, before the vaccine has a chance to fully work. While it’s human nature to see a link between the two events, there is no medical evidence that flu vaccines cause flu, or make people susceptible to flu.”

The two weeks it takes for antibodies to form is all the more reason to be vaccinated as early as possible. Not much would be worse than experiencing the needle poke and still getting the flu. And for those that are a little needle shy, the CDC has developed a nasal spray flu vaccine option.

In previous years, availability of the vaccine has been a problema��but that is not the case this year. The flu shot is available in Spearfish at Safeway, Walgreens and Kmart.

One last potential hurdle might be the expense. However at Black Hills State University, students are offered free flu shots at the health services office until Nov. 26 or supplies run out.

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