Research Shows Flu Shot Helps Keep Patients Safe and Healthy

The start of the fall season means that around the country children are settling into their school routines. It also means cold and flu season is just around the corner, and with a particularly harsh winter predicted for parts of the country that could mean bad news for the end of 2014.

The start of the fall season means that around the country children are settling into their school routines. It also means cold and flu season is just around the corner, and with a particularly harsh winter predicted for parts of the country that could mean bad news for the end of 2014.

Dennis Woo, MD, an Associate Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine, said it is important for children of all ages to make sure they are protected against what could become a serious medical issue. Woo said that while there are concerns among some parents about the safety of vaccines, the risks do not overcome the benefits of the shots that are readily available and well tested.

“The bottom line is there is no question that the vaccine program is effective,” he said. “Really the whole ‘immunization controversy’ boils down to urban legend.”

Woo said the vaccines children get now have helped to stop those same conditions from being fatal or at least helped to make them less dangerous to the young patients.

When it comes to the flu vaccine, Woo said there are two distinct camps: those who are ready and eager to get the shot and those who have concerns based on any number of factors.

“You often hear people say ‘I got the flu vaccine and I got the flu from the flu vaccine.’ That’s not true because it’s a dead vaccine.” Woo said in some cases patients might have a reaction to the shot like soreness or a fever, but even those are more preferential then a fully developed case of the flu.

The issue of whether to vaccinate a child or not has gained a lot of traction in recent years with concerns linking the shots to developmental issues and other potential complications. Woo said an aversion to vaccines is nothing new, but with the Internet and social media those views are given a much louder voice.

Woo said during the 1980s there was the same concern about the DPT vaccine and before then there were worries about the small pox vaccine. Since that time, he said the shots have helped to keep millions of children safe themselves from getting these diseases, while also protecting the community around them.

At the same time, Woo said the same things that have helped bolster the anti-vaccine movement has helped educate more people about their importance as well.

“Especially with the flu vaccine, all you need is a few people dying from the flu and then all of a sudden you’ll have people saying I want a flu shot,” Woo said.

Some parents have expressed a preference to use more holistic methods to keep their children safe during the cold and flu season. Woo said this can be dangerous and not as effective. “With most holistic things, it’s just word of mouth, so there’s no scientific studies to show this is effective,” he said. Just because something is “natural or herbal” does not mean it is better suited to protect a person than a specifically formulated vaccine.

That, he said, is especially true for the flu. “Each year the flu vaccine is different. They look on the horizon and try to predict what strains are going to be the ones causing the disease and they modify the flu vaccine for that particular year.”