Flu Vaccination Safety Concerns.

Article By: Patrick Mansfield | U.S. Health Alerts
Flu Shots

For the past 50 years, flu vaccines have been used as a safe and effective measure for preventing the spread of several strains of the influenza virus. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has conducted extensive research on the vaccine and has determined that it is both safe and suitable for use by the majority of the population. 

Vaccine safety is closely monitored by the CDC using two primary systems:

1. Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD):
A collaboration of nine healthcare organizations to conduct research on vaccine safety and detect adverse effects following vaccinations. VSD data is updated weekly and compared to existing data to determine possible negative associations.

2. Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): 
A national vaccine safety program run by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS collects information about adverse events surrounding vaccinations and allows anyone who has experienced an adverse reaction to a vaccine to submit a report.

A common question concerning the flu vaccine is whether it is capable of giving individuals the influenza virus. The answer is, in fact, no. Flu vaccines are not capable of producing flu symptoms in those who receive them. Vaccines contain modifications of the virus to prevent individuals from actually experiencing illness. Either an inactivated form of the virus or a particle designed to mimic the structure of the virus are used to help the body build immunity to the true virus.

While the vaccine cannot give individuals the influenza virus, it is possible to experience side effects following the vaccination. Such side effects will subside within days and are generally harmless. These may include:

Nausea | Headache | Muscle pain | Fever | Swelling or soreness at injection site | Occasional fainting

There has been a very small association between the flu vaccine and onset of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS). Overall the risk has been assessed at less than .000002% of those vaccinated. GBS has not been linked to the nasal form of the vaccine and is actually more common following a bout of the actual influenza virus. 

As with any vaccine, side effects are fairly common and should be expected. Should you experience a more severe reaction, call 9-1-1 or contact your doctor immediately. Symptoms of a severe reaction to the flu vaccine may include:

Difficulty breathing | Paleness | Hives | Increased heartbeat |Dizziness
Facial swelling | Wheezing/hoarse voice

Reactions of this nature are rare, but can generally be expected within minutes to hours of injection. Following such a reaction, individuals should report their experience to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) through their website.

If for any reason, you believe the flu vaccine has caused you injury, you can visit the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website to learn more about federal compensation for your injury.

While the flu vaccine holds tremendous benefits for the majority of people, there are those who should not receive the vaccination. These include individuals less than six months of age, and those with life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the vaccine, or the vaccine itself. It is both safe and effective for pregnant women to receive the vaccine, and they are encouraged to do so to protect not only themselves but their developing fetus. The CDC recommends that all individuals, six months of age and older, receive the vaccine to prevent the spread of influenza virus.

Individuals who have egg allergies, have experienced Guillain-Barre syndrome, or are not feeling well should consult with their doctor prior to receiving the vaccine.

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