The BBC News website, in an article about batches of flu vaccine being withheld for safety reasons, saw fit to include something which is utterly untrue:-
The flu vaccine is offered free of charge to people who are at risk to ensure that they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.
The flu vaccine does NOT ensure protection against catching flu or developing complications. Even if they have the right vaccine (by no means certain, see below), protection at its very best is about 70%. It reduces your chances of catching flu, it does not ensure you won’t. Bloody big difference.
As to the question of whether the vaccine contains the right virus, they’re not telling, they never do, and some years the vaccine is useless, but you’ll still get it – an extremely expensive charade.
The reason for this is that, in the Spring, WHO looks to the Far East, to see which strains of flu are prevalent there. Then they base production of the autumn vaccine on what they find.
But there’s a problem. At best, it’s a guess which vaccine will arrive on our doorstep come winter, and a totally unknown quantity is how much, and in which direction (more or less virulent), it will have mutated in the meantime. This is why we have to be vaccinated every year – the flu viruses circling the planet mutate almost constantly.
So, whether we end up with the right vaccine is mainly a matter of experience, educated guesswork, and blind luck.
I’ve been on the at risk list for almost as long as the vaccine has been available. I had my first shot in 1968, and a few days later went down with my first every bout of flu. And yes, no matter what experts might claim, the vaccine did cause it, and I’ve been susceptible to flu, vaccine or no vaccine, ever since.
Currently, given my heart condition on top of my COPD, I’m at very high risk – flu could kill me, never mind complications like pneumonia. I will not, however, be having the vaccine.
This is because the vaccine always makes me profoundly ill. Sometimes for a few days, more often than not for months (the older I’ve got, the worse the problems (people with ME, like me, often react badly to vaccines of any sort). Given that I’m housebound, my risk of coming into contact with flu is minimal. True, it can be picked up from hard surfaces that have been sneezed on, or otherwise contaminated (door handles, lift buttons, light switches, supermarket trolleys, for example), but in my building’s common areas I wear disposable vinyl gloves during the flu season, and intend to start doing so if I use taxis too. It a pub – if I ever go again – I always pick a seat where there is little or no chance of some unhygienic clown sneezing or coughing on me, and I stay away from my GP’s surgery too, and hospitals. In the case of dire emergency, by GP will come to me – and he could also bring flu with him, of course – and I’ll need to be at risk of death before I’d consider going anywhere near hospital. And even then I might decide to take my chances – GP waiting rooms and hospitals are no place for people who are susceptible to infection, and my immune system is shot to hell.
Another reason I’m not having the vaccine is that, as has been the case since the pandemic, it contains the human type A, H1N1 virus from the pandemic viral combo, but not the swine and avian flu viruses, so what’s the point? At my age I’ve encountered H1N1 probably 2 or 3 times, it’s a regular visitor,** so the last thing I need is an pointlessly complex viral combo which will cause me more problems than if it were the seasonal vaccine alone.
**It’s also why most fatalities in the pandemic were under 40 and unlikely to have met H1N1, which provided the gateway for the bird and swine viruses), before .
And no, we can’t just have the seasonal vaccine, because some bugger has decided that even people who don’t need it have to have H1N1. Well screw that.
Doubtless I’ll get an argument from the nurses, I don’t care. Always remember, as a patient, it is your right, unless required by law, to reject any medical treatment whatsoever.
Your body – your choice. Just be sure it’s an informed one.