Flu vaccinations are considered to be an important part of population health programs in most developed countries. However, the published statistics on flu vaccinations reveal that many people opt against flu shots. For instance, according to Petty, only 48.6% of Americans obtained flu vaccinations in 2016, which means that over half of the U.S. population were at risk of getting flu.
The reasons that prevent people from obtaining flu shots vary depending on their beliefs and living situations. For instance, a substantial share of the U.S. population believes that vaccinations can cause the flu (Nyhan & Reifler 459). Others think that the overall risk of getting flu is low, and there is no need for vaccination. When it comes to child vaccinations, many parents refuse to give flu shots to their children due to pain and distress, which is a common reaction to immunization shots in children (Beran et al. 2772). However, there is also a significant share of people who fear flu shots due to the possibility of side effects. Indeed, all vaccinations can produce minor side effects. The present paper will seek to discuss various flu shot side effects as causes preventing people from getting flu vaccinations.
Common Side Effects
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu shots have a list of common side effects, such as fever, nausea, headache, and muscle aches. All of these side effects can have an impact on a person’s life in the few days following the disease. Muscle aches or fever, for example, can affect people’s ability to live their normal lifestyle, go to work, or exercise. Although the symptoms will usually go away within a few days, the possibility of side effects affecting their normal life schedule can cause people to refuse the vaccine.
This is especially true for workers who are paid on a shift or hourly basis. The risk of losing the opportunity to work for several days or working while experiencing side effects can affect the quality of work and their earnings, consecutively. Similarly, for parents with children, feeling ill after a flu shot can affect their ability to take care of children. Besides, the flu shot can cause fainting (CDC). This side effect can also impact a person’s life following vaccination. Therefore, information about common side effects from flu vaccinations is one of the reasons why people opt against immunization.
Another side effect of flu vaccinations that is important to consider is an allergic reaction. Indeed, many people experience an allergic reaction following a flu shot. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include redness, swelling, and rash, as well as fever and hives. Allergic reactions to flu shots are quite common and often affect the life of patients for one or two weeks after the immunization. Even a mild allergic reaction can be unpleasant. Pain and itchiness in the area may distract people from their regular activities, such as work, and affect their mood, causing distress or uneasiness.
In addition, there are cases of severe allergic reactions following flu shots. In these cases, people experience “difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, swelling around the eyes or lips, hives, paleness, weakness, [and] a fast heart beat or dizziness” (CDC par. 4). These symptoms are distressing and require medical attention, which might result in extra medical bills or other costs (e.g., medication). Furthermore, these symptoms prevent people from working or performing other daily duties, which is also unpleasant. Finally, a severe allergic reaction can be life-threatening if left untreated. Reports of deaths following flu vaccinations appear in the media quite frequently and are often related to allergic reactions following the injection. For people who have experienced allergic reactions to medications in the past, as well as for those who keep track of alarming reports in the media, the risk of allergic reaction to the vaccine can be a major reason for rejecting a flu shot.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome is widely believed to be associated with flu vaccinations and is thus another key side effect to consider. Public awareness of the Guillain-Barré Syndrome raised in 1976 when a large number of GBS cases were associated with the national vaccination program in the U.S. (Vellozzi et al. 1150). The research study performed shortly after the reports indicated a casual relationship between flu vaccinations and the risk of GBS (Vellozzi et al. 1150). Needless to say, the case got significant attention across the United States and in other parts of the world, too.
Guillain-Barré Syndrome is a serious condition that has severe consequences for one’s health and well-being. Vellozzi et al. explain that the condition causes severe damage to the nervous system (1149). The symptoms of GBS develop gradually, from weakness in the lower limbs to acute flaccid paralysis, over the course of 4 weeks or less (Vellozzi et al. 1140). The syndrome is commonly caused by an infection of respiratory organs or the gastrointestinal system. The majority of patients recover from GBS, successfully restoring movement in the limbs. Nevertheless, there is still a risk of permanent paralysis or even death as a result of Guillain-Barré Syndrome.
After the evidence of the link between flu shots and GBS was revealed to the public, fears of flu vaccinations spread in the U.S. and other countries. The risk of GBS is, perhaps, the most worrying possible side effect of flu shots and is feared by many people. Thus, although the evidence obtained since 1976 is inconclusive and gives no reliable information to confirm or refute the first study, many people avoid flu vaccinations because of the risk of acquiring GBS.
Lastly, another important side effect of flu shots, which is perceived rather than evidence-based, is flu. As shown by multiple research studies, many people believe that it is possible to contract the virus through vaccination. This information is outdated and has no current scientific evidence, although it remains a widespread myth. Flu can be dangerous to wellbeing and may have serious, long-lasting consequences, from chronic respiratory disease to death, which is why people fear the flu. Vaccination contains inactivated virus, meaning that it cannot cause infection when injected into the body. However, many people still believe in the myth and refuse flu shots because of this misconception.
Overall, possible side effects from flu vaccinations range from minor redness of the injection site to paralysis and even death. In many cases, misconceptions about immunization also affect people’s perception of the risk, causing them to view the flu as one of the possible side effects of a flu shot. Both real and perceived side effects result in widespread fears, causing a decline in immunization fates. Therefore, the fear of side effects impacts people’s reasoning, causing them to avoid flu shots.
Beran, Tanya N., et al. “Reducing Children’s Pain and Distress Towards Flu Vaccinations: A Novel and Effective Application of Humanoid Robotics.” Vaccine, vol. 31, no. 25, 2013, pp. 2772-2777.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Flu Vaccine Safety information.” CDC, 2017. Web.
Nyhan, Brendan, and Jason Reifler. “Does Correcting Myths about the Flu Vaccine Work? An Experimental Evaluation of the Effects of Corrective Information.” Vaccine, vol. 33, no. 3, 2015, pp. 459-464.
Vellozzi, Claudia, et al. ” Guillain-Barré Syndrome, Influenza, and Influenza Vaccination: The Epidemiologic Evidence.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 58, no. 8, 2014, pp. 1149-1155.