Opinion: Vaccines Only One Part of Health

Fall doesn’t just bring falling leaves and crisp winds. It also marks the beginning of flu season.

Local pharmacies and doctor’s offices have begun setting up flu clinics all over Clark County, and many people have started getting their yearly flu vaccine.

“Vaccines protect people and save them from a lot of horrific illnesses,” said Veronica Brock, Clark health professor.

According to the Center for Disease Control, vaccines are especially beneficial to older people, as well as people with poor health or immune deficiencies.

“I think we are very fortunate to live in a time where it’s been decades and decades since we’ve seen a severe outbreak that’s been really devastating,” Brock said. “Thankfully vaccines really protected us, for a long time, so much so that there’s some complacency.”

Some people do not see the significance of getting vaccinated. Others make it a priority to ensure their vaccinations are up to date.

While there are many benefits to being vaccinated, it is not risk free. Over the years the flu vaccine has shown mixed results in effectiveness. For the 2014-2015 season, the CDC’s estimated vaccine effectiveness was 18 percent influenza A and 45 percent influenza B. The combined vaccine effectiveness against all influenza is 19 percent.

“When the flu vaccine is not well matched to the circulating viruses, it is possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed,” according to the CDC. “Results will vary across the population depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine is used.”

Some people also believe they can get the flu virus from the vaccine. While it is possible to experience flu-like symptoms, it is not the actual virus, the CDC said. Personally, I experienced these symptoms every time I received the flu vaccine.

While these symptoms can be irritating, there are far worse side effects that can come with a flu vaccine. The CDC said severe allergic reactions can occur and an increased risk for Guillain- Barre Syndrome, an ailment where the immune system begins to attack the nervous cells in your body. Both can lead to serious injury or even death.

The CDC’s website states that any vaccine can possibly cause severe harm or death. For most vaccines listed this is rare, but mild to moderate side effects, like sore throat or fever, are slightly more common.

According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database, the actual measles disease has not killed anyone since 2004. However, there have been 108 reported deaths caused by the vaccine. In the same vein, the HPV vaccine had approximately 30,000 adverse reactions from 2006 to 2014, 92 percent were reported as not severe.

As an adult or parent, it’s your responsibility to know what vaccines are necessary for you or your child at that specific time.

“I do believe that it is important that people question everything when it comes to their health,” Brock said. “People should be more of an advocate when it comes to their health and part of that advocacy is knowing which vaccines you are being asked to get, for you and your children, and what the protective qualities are and what the risks are.”

Between what feels like pushy doctors and reports of bad reactions, it’s hard to find the right information. Growing up, I had little knowledge about nutrition and health and it was hard to find information at my school or doctor’s office.

I used to be sick every flu season, but my health improved drastically after some slight lifestyle changes.

I stopped eating out as much and began choosing healthier lean meats and vegetables. I started exercising at least 30 minutes everyday, getting good sleep every night and washing my hands regularly. These changes are not easy ones to make, but the health effects are worth it. After making the switch, I have yet to get the flu, or any other yearly sickness, all while remaining unvaccinated.

Regardless of your view of vaccines, it is hard to argue against a healthier lifestyle. While a combination of certain vaccines, healthy foods and exercise is the most effective form of protection according to the CDC, each is of equal importance to your health and the community’s.

For students, the health center has eight different vaccines available and resources to ensure a healthy lifestyle. For people who are uninsured, there are flu clinics throughout the county providing information on both vaccines and health. In the end, I think an effective long-term preventative plan is to simply be informed.

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