What I've observed over the past few months has been shocking, to say the least. Maybe it is the first time I've paid attention or maybe the advertising campaigns have just been stronger than ever, but this year, it is pretty evident that the drug manufacturers and drugstores are looking to make their money back on past years when the flu shot has been in short supply. This year, I've seen nothing short of a rampant campaign for those companies to make money by scaring individuals. The first ad to really infuriate me was the ad run by Walgreens in October 2012. It showed an ill woman putting kale, a raw egg, other veggies, and hot sauce into a blender, then making an awful face after pouring the smoothie into a glass. The commercial advises people to go to Walgreens to get a prescription or over the counter meds rather than stay healthy by eating good healing foods (the egg not included). Why do you think they put this ad out there? Because they want you to spend money at Walgreens and not the grocery store. They could care less about you being healthy. They just want you to buy the flu shot. I have no idea how their marketing people sleep at night, but it truly makes me sick just thinking about it.
That's not to mention the countless other articles, ads, and signage I've seen for the drugstores' flu shot campaigns. It is truly unbelievable.
What is the vaccine and what is my chance of infection?
The flu shot is an inactivated vaccine (containing the killed virus) that is typically given with a needle, but is also available in a nasal spray. Every year, manufacturers of the flu vaccine make an educated guess about the strain of influenza that might be present in this country. The doses for this year's flu vaccine were completed in February of 2012 way before the strain for this year was even identified. The manufacturers don't care if they get it right, they just want to make money and if they do get it right, great! Because then you are more likely to buy it again next year!
In general, they say the vaccine is about 62% effective. Add to that the fact that many people who get the vaccine do not produce enough antibodies to be protected anyway and now you have a more realistic number -- a less than 20% chance of being protected from the flu by the vaccine.
Is the flu shot vegan?
No, the viruses used in the influenza vaccine are grown in eggs -- probably the eggs of hens in battery cages. Who knows?!
Why do so many people get the flu shot?
Most people get the flu shot because they are scared. The drug industry's commercials and the news reports on the incidence rate are scaring the heck out of everyone. And, sadly, many people would rather get a shot than take care of themselves to ensure they have a healthy immune system in the same way that many people would rather take cholesterol-lowering drugs, i.e., statins, than reduce their intake of meat, eggs, and dairy.
What should you do?
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to ensure your immune system is healthy. This means ensuring you eat a balanced diet rich of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics. It isn't necessary to even consume probiotics if you have healthy flora in your gut. But, it is important to pay attention to that because the gastrointestinal tract is a prominent part of the immune system. In fact, 60% of your immune system is contained in your gut. If the ratio of good to bad bacteria is not in line, then your immune system can be compromised. If you are worried about this or have had issues with this in the past, Goodbelly is a good source of vegan probiotics.
You can learn a lot about yourself and your health from getting the flu. Your body's immune system should be strong enough to fight off disease. If it is not, then you are probably not as healthy as you think you are. Perhaps you are not eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals or getting enough exercise. In any case, it just means you can work harder to get healthier for the future. And if you get the flu and that is the result (that you get healthier), then that is a good outcome.
But don't people die from the flu?
Yes, and almost all of them are the elderly, individuals with comprised immune systems, those who have a history of serious asthma or upper respiratory compromise, or children who get dehydrated. So, if you are one of these people, you will need to take extra precautions.
Other ways to protect yourself
- Wash your hands!
- Keep your hands away from your nose, eyes, and mouth.
- Keep your distance -- at least 6 feet from a sneezer or sniffler. Don't be afraid to get up and switch seats while using public transportation.
- Keep surfaces clean. If anyone touches your phone or computer, wipe them down with alcohol afterwards....and wash your hands.
- Eat healthy foods and avoid meat, dairy, and eggs.
Disclaimer: I am a certified Food for Life instructor through PCRM, but I am not a medical doctor. Please consult your physician if you have specific questions about the best way to protect yourself from the flu.