The Infamous Flu: How are you going to protect yourself this winter?


Catherine Bowman, Features Editor

It’s an age-old problem: should you get a flu vaccine or should you stay far away? If you get it, will you contract flu-like symptoms from the vaccine, making you feel terrible? And if you don’t, will you get the actual flu and thus endanger your loved ones?

These questions are not easy to answer. The debate about the pros and cons of the flu vaccine have gone on since the flu vaccine was first introduced in 1938.  

However, some questions are easy to figure out. According to, it is a myth that the flu vaccine can cause the flu. The vaccine is composed of a dead or inactive form of the virus, making it impossible for a person to come down with the flu because of getting vaccinated.

Sometimes after receiving the vaccine, some people experience mild flu-like symptoms like a low grade fever or upset stomach. Even though these reactions are totally normal and definitely not the flu, some assume that it is, thus the “vaccines cause the flu” myth continues.

And anyone who has had the actual flu knows the difference. Religion teacher Melissa Ursin had never gotten a flu shot prior to coming down with the flu. “It was like three days of a really really high fever, so much pressure in the front of my face, I felt like someone was hammering my head,” she says about having the flu. This year she “went and got one right away.”

That does not mean that the flu vaccine is a sure thing. Even if you have gotten the flu vaccine, you could still come down with the flu. The vaccine usually only reduces the risk of getting the flu by about 50-60%, even less if you’re a person 65 years or older, according to the Center for Disease Control.

This is due to there being many different strains of the flu virus, says Because of the large quantity of strains that are constantly mutating, creating a very effective vaccine can be very hard.

Despite this less-than-perfect record, the CDC recommends that everyone over six months of age get the flu vaccine since the chances of it being effective increase as more people get vaccinated.

What does that mean for the general population? It means that not only a single person should consider getting vaccinated, it means that their family and friends should consider it as well to create what’s known as “herd immunity.” Herd immunity is a term used to describe what happens when a critical part of a community is vaccinated against a contagious disease, protecting other members of that community by limiting the chance of an outbreak.  

Another important thing to consider when deciding about getting vaccinated is the health and ages of people in your family. Babies, young children, older people, and people sick with serious or terminal illnesses are often more susceptible to the negative effects of the flu. By getting a flu shot, the safety of vulnerable people around you is increased.

Pregnancy is another important thing to consider. The CDC recommends pregnant women get vaccinated as the flu vaccine will help protect both the mother and her baby from the flu. In addition, after the baby is born, the flu vaccine protects the baby from getting sick with the flu for a period of time.

A downside to the flu vaccine is the length of time it takes to become effective. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, so during those two weeks the recipient is not protected from the flu and can contract the virus.

Another unfortunate issue with the flu vaccine is the restrictions to the people that are able to get it. says that anyone with egg allergies are not eligible to receive the vaccine due to it being developed and grown on eggs.

Infants younger than six months, with their very weak immune systems, are also not eligible to receive the vaccine, meaning that they are not protected during the first few months of their lives. People recovering from a fever from another illness are not able to receive the vaccine until their fever has completely gone away, putting them at a higher risk until they are recovered.

There is no straight answer as to whether you should or should not get the flu vaccine. This winter season, make sure to consider the many pros and cons of this vaccine and what will be the best for the health of yourself and those around you.