Flu season brings controversy over vaccine effectivity


Amodhya Samarakoon

Sophomore Sara Bohjanen browses flue remedies at Wallgreens. Cough drops, decongestents, and nasal sprays are all popular products come flu season. “I don’t really ever get sick and it’s probably because I [get] my flu shot,” Sophomore David Santos said.

Amodhya Samarakoon, Opinions Editor

From the time leaves start to fall to the time candy cane scented candles are lit, many students choose to get their flu vaccines. This is because the flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking around January.

However, recently, there’s been talk of the flu vaccine being ineffective as a defense against this seasonal virus, leading some who regularly get the shot to opt out this winter.

Junior Madeeha Rizvi said, “With the flu vaccine, there should be more research about if the shots aren’t beneficial because, right now, [there is lots of] speculation. There need to be more tests done.”

Flu vaccines, whether in the form of nasal spray or an injection, can contain antigens of the flu virus in order to activate the body’s immune response towards a specific strain of the flu. And, recently, people have reported getting sick from the flu vaccine due to the weakened, live virus being introduced into the body.

“I’d take the risk, especially in Minnesota because it is cold all the time,” sophomore David Santos said.

While cold weather doesn’t magically infect people with the flu virus, the cold can lower the body’s ability to fight off the pathogen.
However, the main association with the flu and cold weather is mainly due to the fact that when its flu season, it’s also winter in Minnesota.

“We’ve been taking flu shots for years and it hasn’t done anything bad…I don’t really ever get sick and it’s probably because I [get] my flu shot,” Santos said.

This seems very true: not many students have experienced or seen evidence of these flu shots being ineffective, and therefore, choose to get vaccinated despite the concern of the cons of getting vaccinated.

I’d take the risk, especially in Minnesota because it is cold all the time.”

— sophomore David Santos

The lack of research and reliable information on this topic definitely affects the choices of students when it comes to vaccinations: When the phrase “flu shots ineffective” or “flu shot makes you sick” or anything similar is Google News searched, the articles which pop up don’t talk about the dangers of the flu shot, but rather infectivity due to viral mutations.

The flu is a virus with RNA rather than DNA as its genetic material, which means that when the flu replicates there isn’t a proofreading system and this is a frequent cause of mutations.

The flu is one of the most rapidly mutating viruses, constantly requiring scientists to begin revising vaccines for each season.

Predicting these changes can be very difficult, leading to ineffective vaccines by the time flu season has rolled around.
However, while the flu vaccine might not be developed enough to protect against certain strains, doctors still recommend getting vaccinated to keep from getting infected by more common or less severe strains.

Flu shots are available same-day without an appointment, and are covered by most insurance plans. Walk in shots are available at Walgreens and Target stores.