Fact Check: Does the flu shot actually work?

Posted: February 20, 2013

Can you really trust your health to a vaccination?

The question: 

Is the flu vaccine really effective at preventing the flu?

The explanation: 

Coughing, sneezing, throwing up and tissue box after tissue box; it’s mid-February and we’re now nearing the end of the 2013 flu season. Many students at Minnehaha and throughout the country have received the flu shot in an effort to keep themselves from contracting the virus that has already claimed 20 lives in Minnesota since October according to the Minnesota Department of Health. But does the vaccine really prevent the flu?

Some fear that they will get the flu from the virus in the vaccine if their body does not fight it off properly. However, this assumption is implausible.

“It’s a killed virus. There’s no genetic material that is capable of replicating itself inside these immunizations,” said Dr. Jon Hallberg in an interview with Tom Crann for Minnesota Public Radio.

But some have received the vaccine, and have still contracted the virus. There are two possible reasons for this: the vaccine is not 100 percent effective or the virus was already in the person’s body before they received the shot. Researchers put a tremendous amount of time into predicting which strains of the flu will be most active in any given year, those strains are then used to prepare the vaccine.

Strains are different variations of the virus, “they [strains] might have maybe 40 genes that they can code proteins off of,” said science teacher Carmella Whaley, “but maybe they are different in three or four of those so they would eventually have different proteins made on their surface.”

Surface proteins are crucial in the life cycle of the flu and any other virus, “that connection between the virus and the host happens at the surface of each cell,” said Whaley, “so the virus has proteins that match up with the cell’s proteins to allow it to invade that cell.”

This year, the three strains included in the vaccine are deemed a good match to the strains currently circulating.

While many are skeptical of the vaccine, just as many put their trust in the CDC and FDA to help keep them influenza-free.

“I think that getting it [the flu vaccine] has been effective in keeping me healthy,” junior Katie Pope said.

The verdict: 

The flu shot is effective at preventing the flu, it contains killed strains of the virus that helps the body to build immunity to the strains that are currently active. Through extensive research and thorough testing, you can be sure that the flu shot is safe and will keep you healthy.

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