Had your flu shot yet?

By Phil Plait | October 10, 2011 1:38 pm

Hey, it’s flu season! Got your vaccine yet?

If not, this might convince you:

I’m getting mine, as will Mrs. BA and The Little Astronomer. Talk to your doctor, then get one too if they recommend it. The flu is more than an inconvenience; it can be deadly to those unequipped to deal with it.

Tip o’ the needle to Mike’s Weekly Skeptic Rant (sometimes NSFW language there).

Related posts:

Undue influenza
I got shot
An unvaccinated child has died from a preventable disease
Congress hears about antivaxxers

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Alt-Med, Cool stuff
MORE ABOUT: influenza

Comments (74)

  1. Keith Bowden

    Got mine last week. :)

  2. NewEnglandBob

    Weeks ago. Five years in a row now.

  3. I work for a flu vaccine manufacturer, got one for the whole family a month ago 😉

    ruh roh…did I just out myself as a shill???

  4. OtherRob

    Got mine last week, too. They offer them for free at work and I’ve been getting one for years.

  5. Mitch

    I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who is helping with the herd immunity while I cannot. I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer and have to rely on the herd immunity granted by what I hope will be the high percentage of vaccinated adults.

    Next year, when I am through this ordeal, I will once again be in the first wave of flu shot recipients, but until then…

    Thank You All

  6. Doug

    I got mine three weeks ago. I work for a hospital and every employee is required to get a flu vaccine unless they claim a religious exemption. I’m guessing the nutbars who think vaccines cause autism include themselves in that group.

  7. Richard

    Got mine a couple weeks ago. We have somebody come to our office every year to do ours.

  8. Would if I could, but I’d have a rather violent allergic reaction to the egg-based serum that the vaccine is grown in; basically went into shock from my last MMR booster.

    My wife did, though!

  9. Carey

    Great video, but too short. I want to see what happens next!

    I started getting a flu shot two years ago, and for the last two years, have gotten very ill at some point during the winter, when I used to never get seriously ill. But, since correlation does not imply causation, and the illnesses were months after the vaccination anyway, I’m going to get one again this year.

  10. Josie

    Got mine a couple weeks ago!

    I’m going to a gaming convention this month. Maybe i should get a few more shots now that I think about it. eek.

  11. Mike

    My wife and I have gotten our flu shots every year for so long now we have forgotten.

    Oh my…do you think vaccines cause Alzheimer’s??!!


  12. John Budewitz

    Thanks, but interestingly enough, I just returned home from my visit to the Kroger store, where I bought many groceries, AND visited the pharmacy where I got my flu shot! I have been getting them yearly since they became available, and am happy to say have never gotten the flu. Good for you to encourage your readers to avail themselves of this excellent means of staying healthy.

  13. I didn’t know the vaccine was available yet! As someone in a high-risk group (asthma) I always get my vaccination. One year I didn’t, and I got the flu for the first time in my life, and it took me a couple months to finish getting over it.

    Of course a lot of my coworkers are doubly-selfish in that they don’t bother to get a vaccination because they don’t think the flu is a big deal, AND they come in while they’re “not contagious” (i.e. incredibly freaking contagious exposing me to even more risk. Lovely.

  14. CJSF

    I got my very first ever flu shot this year because a close friend and co-worker is undergoing chemo for breast cancer care, and I want to protect her the best I can.


  15. The local Safeway stores here were offering 10% off your shopping that day if you got a flu shot at their pharmacy. Check if your local stores have a similar deal. So get a flu shot and stock up on groceries!

  16. Blake

    I don’t need a flu shot; I was infected with H1N1 2 years ago! :) I don’t recommend that route though. It was horrific. Barf everywhere.



  17. Bill the Splut

    Got mine about 2 hours ago. First one ever! Oh, noooo…I’m autistic now!

  18. mike

    I liked the animation. I wonder how long it actually takes for the virus, once in the cell, to replicate to a few hundred thousand copies?

    No vaccine yet for me, but I am waiting for a call from my doctor, when I will go in and get it done.

  19. Jerry

    Nope, never got it, never plan too. I had the flu once in my life, no big deal. But then again I very rarely get sick. Haven’t had a cold in years. I do take my vitamin supplements regularly though. I know that’s frowned upon by most here, but it works great for me.

  20. Nic

    If you can get a flu jab, get one. And don’t let anyone tell you it will give you flu. That is utter horse****.
    I’ve had a jab annually (as an asthmatic) for about 12 or 15 years. Sure you might get a dead arm for a short time. Better than a chest infection (that nearly killed a friend of mine early this year).

    Go for it.

  21. Cairnos

    We’re on the opposite schedule (southern hemisphere) but it’s free at work each year so I always get it. Doesn’t always work, last winter one that hit a lot of people just wasn’t one of the ones in the jab, still worth it as far as I’m concerned, who knows if one of the ones that was in it just didn’t get traction.

  22. Musical Lottie

    Here in the UK it’s only offered to those considered most at risk of flu – asthmatics, the elderly, the immuno-compromised – so no. Unfortunately an older friend of mine and my Dad both were really ill last year (Dad had pneumonia) straight after having the jab at completely separate doctor’s surgeries so they’ve been put off :(

  23. Patrick

    Got mine three weeks ago. :)

  24. Chris

    Got mine 3 weeks ago! :)

  25. Hemogoblin

    Nice animation, but the narration is just condescending.

    And no: haven’t gotten a flu shot, won’t be getting one.
    I have only ever taken a flu shot once, and that was just because it was offered for free (the Bacon Lung scare). It is also the one vaccination in my life that I’ve experienced side effects from. It is not an experience I wish to pay good money for to repeat.

  26. Joseph G

    Can anyone shed any light on why we have a flu season? It’s not like viruses have circadian rhythms or anything.

    Also, if anyone here is well versed in virology, do you know if it would be possible to make the flu extinct, as was accomplished happened with small pox? Or are there so many strains that no matter how completely everyone is vaccinated, there will still be small reservoirs of the disease that slip past the vaccines?

  27. CR

    Got mine weeks ago, along with the wife and kids, due to all the nastiness that is public schools filled with less-than-sanitary kids. Wife and I also got adult pertussis boosters, as we’re both in our fourth decade now.
    Bonus for me: the pertussis booster was batched with a tetanus booster, and I received the shots the day after I dropped a mini drill into my shin. (The drill was not running at the time, thankfully, but MAN, did it hurt!) Timing couldn’t have been better, I guess.

  28. JJ (the other one)

    @Joseph 26:

    There are a couple of hypotheses about why flu seasons are linked with the winter season. It’s well established that they are linked, the southern hemisphere has their season when it’s winter there, the northern hemisphere has their season when it’s winter there.

    From the ‘flu season’ Wikipedia page… One hypothesis is related to sunlight / vit D levels. Another is related to the toll winter takes on the lungs (cold air = dry air, indoor heating = dry air, dry air = reduced mucous membranes). Another relates to the increased time spent indoors and therefore in close proximity to others to spread the disease. Another is that influenza virus itself survives longer in cooler temperatures.

    A side note, novel H1N1 actually caused an out-of-season flu season in the northern hemisphere (during early summer months, which didn’t do the vit D hypothesis many favors), which made various medical authorities worry about what would happen when the ‘normal’ season rolled around. Fortunately it didn’t play out that way and there weren’t two serious flu seasons in a single year.

  29. Chris

    OK I’m just going to live in a hypoallergenic bubble.

  30. kuoirad

    Count me in among those who don’t and haven’t gotten flu shots. I think I’ve been given one once or twice when I had an unrelated upper respiratory infection and the doctor gave me one as a just-in-case – and I think that was during one of the shortage years in the past 5 or so.


  31. Charlie Foxtrot

    Got mine months ago, before the Southern Hemisphere ‘Flu season :)

    The only side effect I seem to get is that I get a little testier each year with the people here who insist that the vaccine gives them the ‘flu.

  32. Naomi

    Flu season’s over and done with, here! (Of course, there are always summer colds… once it starts feeling like summer again…)

    Does anyone know if flu shots are still available in Australia? I have some family members going over to Europe in northern winter.

  33. JB of Brisbane

    Took the vaccine (free at work) last two years; no side effects and I didn’t go down with flu when someone brought it into the office.
    @Joseph #26: All the different flu strains mutate during the year as they make their way through the various life forms they infect (birds, horses, humans, etc.), so no flu strain is the same from year to year. This makes it necessary to make a new vaccine for the latest mutations of the dominant strains in any flu season.
    @Jerry #19: Let us know if you ever do go down with a really incapacitating flu one day, and see if you still feel so flippant about it.

  34. Paul Leddy

    Never got one, never needed one, and don’t get fooled by propaganda wrapped up in science.

  35. VinceRN

    Work always sneaks up and jabs me in the arm, but they haven’t yet this year. The kids get it squirted up their nose, our county does it for free, sets up vaccine clinics at churches and schools and such. Their school (home that is) requires it. No exemptions. The public schools allow exemptions for religion, other objections, and laziness.

  36. MadLogician

    My wife and I are in the UK and are both in vulnerable groups – diabetes and asthma. We got our shots last Saturday.

    We’ve each had itchy or painful reactions from time to time, but nothing like as bad as what we’d get from flu.

  37. Satan

    If you eat well and keep your mind and body fit then you shouldn’t be getting sick at all. Flu shots are the devil!

  38. Wzrd1

    My wife and I didn’t understand HOW the flu could be considered lethal. In spite of a family history of deaths from the Spanish flu.
    Then, we got H1N1 flu, after being vaccinated. It turned out that THAT year’s “roll of the dice” on probable contagious strains was off and hit craps.
    AFTER, *LONG* after, we had a chuckle about bad luck. But, we both remember all too well how horrid it was AND the three month to full recovery we experienced.
    THEN, we understood HOW it could kill easily!
    So, each year, we got our shots.
    This year…
    No health insurance. No job. Unemployment check paying for a new heater for the house after the old one filled the house with smoke (and a small amount of CO).
    So, when we have the extra bucks, we’ll get it. And since we’re taking care of my elderly father on a live in basis, leaving our own home vacant, we’ll shot ourselves if we get the damned thing, rather than infect him. 😉
    Seriously though, it’s WAY up on the list. Right after food and before electricity.
    We’d put it above food, but after experiencing literal starvation level diet for an extended time, our highest priority is ALWAYS food…

  39. Machinas

    @34. Paul Leddy Says:
    October 10th, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    “Never got one, never needed one yet, I’ve been fooled by propaganda wrapped up in pseudo-science.” FTFY

  40. fred edison

    Paul Leddy, you’re spouting anti-vax propaganda of your own. I really detest those kinds of uncaring and self-centered people.

    Wzrd1, I don’t know if CVS is still giving free flu shots to the unemployed but it may be worth your time to check it out. If not, check with your local hospital or clinic, they might be able to provide suggestions.

    As for flu shots of the paid kind, I had mine over two weeks ago. No worries.

  41. Buzz Parsec

    Aug 25, while I was at my doctor’s office for my annual physical. And it was FREE. Apparently in RomneyCare Massachusetts, health insurance is now required to cover flu shots with no copay.

    In December 1996, I caught the flu along with about 1/2 the people I work with, and ever since then, my company has paid for the shots (or the copay), so it was going to be free anyway. Nothing like having 1/2 the company out of commission for 2 weeks to make an ounce of prevention look cheap.

  42. Nope. Never had the flu. I think a lot of people get a bad cold after their flu shots, and that’s why they get suspicious or cynical about them. But a bad cold is not influenza.

    As the worst I’ve ever had is a bad cold, I will not be getting flu shots. If I ever end up with influenza one day, then I’ll start. And if my not getting shots kills me, it will be my own fault, which I accept.

  43. Hemogoblin

    @ 40. GuanoLad

    I think a lot of people get a bad cold after their flu shots, and that’s why they get suspicious or cynical about them.

    Rather, I think it’s because they can and often do cause cause flu-like symptoms. From the CDC (“Influenza (inactivated) vaccine side-effects “):

    Mild Problems
    soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given
    hoarseness; sore, red or itchy eyes; cough

    That’s pretty much “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Flu!”.

    And, of course, the recent overreaction to swine flu did not help any – a massive media and (this is the part that pisses me off) health organization hype over a flu that actually had a lower mortality rate than the regular seasonal flu. And a vaccine that turned out to cause serious side effects.
    The swine flu reaction damaged the credibility of health professionals, damaged the reputation of vaccinations as safe, possibly irreparably, gave the antivaxers actual ammunition to use (it’s not autism, but they’ll cling to anything they can point to and go “look, vaccines are dangerous!”), and pretty much destroyed the chances of getting everyone to vaccinate themselves if something actually dangerous comes around…

  44. Shatners Basoon

    Nice video but did they really have to dumb it down so much?

  45. DrFlimmer

    Will have to get mine as soon as possible. Maybe next week or so. Since I am regularly visiting VERY crowded places, a vaccination is quite useful.

  46. Raymond Dickey

    I got mine last week. I get the jab every year.

  47. Jes

    Amazing how many refuse to get the vax because THEY have never had a bad flu, completely ignoring the advantage of herd immunity in their areas. Good on you doing nothing while reaping the reward of your fellows who do partake in the herd immunity.

    Work is offering it free. I’ll be signing up for it, it’s in a few weeks (they base it at a certain location and only have one date left listed, unfortunately.)

  48. @Jes: If I don’t have the flu, i.e. effectively naturally immune, I’m no threat to anyone. I am independent of herd immunity.

  49. Hemogoblin

    @ 43. Jes:
    … the unimmunized reaping the reward of the immunized is what herd immunity means.

  50. Peter B

    GuanoLad @ #44 said: “If I don’t have the flu, i.e. effectively naturally immune, I’m no threat to anyone. I am independent of herd immunity.”

    You haven’t had the flu yet. How do you know you won’t get it next flu season?

    I haven’t had the flu either, but I get annual flu shots because (a) I have a crap immune system and wouldn’t like to get it and (b) I don’t want to be responsible for passing it on to others.

  51. Dina

    I had the ‘flu in college once – it was awful. Unfortunately my needle phobia kept me away from getting a shot until this year, but I plan to get them from now on.

    Oh, and to anyone who found the clip condescending – nah, that’s just the way Robert Krulwich plays it on Radiolab. He’s the “everyman” character (as such) on the show.

  52. deathby2

    Never had one, never get viral infections, refuse to get one. Flu shots are nothing more than gov’t sponsored monopolies. Modern day’s obsession with vaccines has lead to over population that is destroying the planet.

  53. Cow

    Peter B@46: “How you do you know you won’t get it next flu season?”

    He doesn’t, but you can’t be sure you won’t either. Once a new strain comes along, you are as likely to get it as GuanoLad. Vaccines protect against (a fraction of) known invaders, not unknown ones, not to mention the ones that evolve to be resistant against the vaccine…

    I am one of those people that’s lost a week of work every year I’ve gotten the flu shot so I’ll pass, thanks.

  54. Getting mine tomorrow at the Company Nurce’s office. :)

    And for the anti-vax pro-disease nutters, check this out: http://factsnotfantasy.com/vaccines.php

  55. Ray

    24 years in the Air Force, got the flu shot every year because it was required. And like clockwork, every year I would get ugly sick 3-4 weeks later. Retired in 2007, haven’t gotten a shot since and haven’t been sick. Correlation may not always imply causation, but sometimes it does.

  56. alfaniner

    I didn’t get a shot for several years. After all, I never got the flu! Then, two years in a row I got the flu. After the first time I thought it was a fluke. After the second time I swore I’d never miss getting one again.

    I finally understood how you could die just from the coughing.

  57. RobT

    I love when people say they won’t get one because they never had the flu. That is an idiotic response. Most people have never had polio yet they still get that vaccine. People seem to think the flu is an innocuous disease that is no big deal. Remember SARS? That was blown completely out of proportion with “only” 900 or so deaths worldwide. Borders were almost closed and people with any symptoms were treated as pariahs. On the other hand, the flu causes around 41,000 deaths per year in the US alone yet people act like it’s just a normal cold.

    People also shrug their shoulders when there is talk of a flu pandemic; they forget about, or are ignorant of, past pandemics. At the end of World War One over 20 million people died from the flu. It spread around the world quickly, without the aid of mass air travel.

    I think it is rather selfish for one to say one would not get a flu shot because one has never had the flu. Get the flu shot because you actually care for your friends and family. If you ever have a loved one die from influenza you would change your tune pretty damn quick.

  58. Josh

    Living in a country where the vaccine is only offered to the risk groups, I can safely answer “no”. Obviously, being ill for a couple of weeks/months is not really an issue, but if it gets lethal for the stronger groups, I certainly hope they will start vaccinating against it.

  59. M. M. M.

    Given that the vaccine is only formulated to guard against 3 specific strains, I don’t see this so-called herd immunity benefit…

    The virus has a high mutation rate, and there’s no guarantee that the three strains being targeted won’t mutate, let alone the countless other strains which may already exist or come into being at any given point. Sure, we know that most virulent contagions mutate, and therefor we can’t be 100% certain that a vaccine will last indefinitely (IIRC), but with number of people traveling around the world nowadays, is there really a benefit here?

    According to the CDC website “The flu vaccine is updated each season to provide protection against the three flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness.” … “A number of studies have shown that the flu vaccine works, but how well the vaccine works can change from year to year and vary among different groups of people.”

    That certainly doesn’t sound encouraging to me…

    1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Influenza_vaccine#Annual_reformulation_of_flu_vaccine
    2. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm

    (I’m not an anti-vaxer, I just don’t like the list of side-effects associated with flu vaccines that I’ve seen folks experience — especially since I tend to experience side-effects with minuscule probabilities, the kind they don’t have to list in leaflets. I’m also skeptical of the fact that the CDC links to ‘resources’ provided by GlaxoSmithKline and other manufacturers, and doesn’t link to the studies that the site repeatedly references)

  60. Mike

    Getting it tomorrow!

    Had a discussion with a co-worker recently who said he doesn’t get shots because he doesn’t get sick often, and thinks it’s better just to put up with it when he does get sick than to get the shot. Easy for a healthy man in the prime of his life to say. Then he brought in the “you don’t know what’s in it, and that stuff builds up over time” fallacy.. so I explained to him why that isn’t true, showed him the website where he could find out exactly what is in the shot, and also explained why it’s important for him to get the shot for herd immunity. I’m not sure I convinced him to get his shots this time around, but hopefully I perhaps planted a seed of doubt that he’s the only one in the world who matters.

  61. QuietDesperation

    Funny timing. Getting mine at work for free in 2 hours. Some employers get it.

  62. QuietDesperation

    Given that the vaccine is only formulated to guard against 3 specific strains, I don’t see this so-called herd immunity benefit…

    It’s a benefit against those three strains. Nothing is perfect. Predicting flu strains is not an exact science, but most of the time they do pretty well considering.

    According to the CDC website “The flu vaccine is updated each season to provide protection against the three flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness.” … “A number of studies have shown that the flu vaccine works, but how well the vaccine works can change from year to year and vary among different groups of people.”

    That certainly doesn’t sound encouraging to me…

    This is reality, not a TV sci-fi movie. This is as good as it gets. Some protection is better than none. This “but it’s not perfect” attitude is silly.

  63. QuietDesperation

    People seem to think the flu is an innocuous disease that is no big deal.

    Anecdotal, but everyone I know has had at least a couple bad bouts of flu during their lives, so they know how rotten it can be. I have many weeks scattered throughout my life I’d love to have back as opposed to lying flat on my back not even sure where I was while deep inside fever dreams.

    Good lord, the stuff that crawls out of the corners of my mind in fever dreams… yeesh! I had one several years ago where I was convinced I was on an old galleon ship at sea in a storm, and I had to get up to the deck to do… something. I made it to the living room before coming out of it. I could feel the sway of the ship, hear the storm and the waves. No idea where that came from. I am immune to the call of the sea.

    My mom once said as a kid I came out a fever dream asking “Why do we have to move to the North Pole?”

  64. JC

    Oh, I’ll be getting it for sure. I never used to, but for the last few years I’ve gotten in the habit. :) Especially now I have my own toddler and am frequently around other small children.

    I have a weird immune response to the flu. I usually feel kinda crappy for 1/2 a day then I’m back to normal. A couple years ago, though, I got some kind of horrible version and I felt like death (fever, chills, you name it) for about 6 hours and bounced right back.

  65. QuietDesperation

    Then, we got H1N1 flu, after being vaccinated. It turned out that THAT year’s “roll of the dice” on probable contagious strains was off and hit craps.

    Did you get both shots? H1N1 was a separate vaccine.

    I still prefer to call it swine flu because it’s funnier.

  66. Tan Coul

    Asthmatic and in the UK, so yep. got mine a fortnight ago (managed to get the surgery to schedule my mother’s at the same time so I could give her a lift in while I had the afternoon off from work.) Just out of interest. how much does it cost in the USA for those who have to pay?

  67. The local clinic will not have flu-shots until November. I do not understand the delay. Last year, I got the shot against whooping cough with my flu-shot, so I am safe around babies.

    On a sidenote, ExVivo made the video. The Expelled liars ripped off 1 of the videos from ExVivo and put it in Expelled. ExVivo sued the thieving liars.

  68. QuietDesperation

    Anywhere between $5 to $25, but, honestly, if you poke around enough you can probably find a free one.

  69. @26 A little bit of an old comment, but I don’t think anyone actually addressed the question about smallpox vs influenza.

    One of the reasons we probably won’t ever wipe out influenza over smallpox is that influenza has a *lot* of reservoirs, which is to say nonhuman hosts that can harbor the disease, most famously pigs and birds. As far as we’re aware, smallpox doesn’t have any of these natural reservoirs, and seems to be very specific for human cells. Of course, smallpox can also remain dormant for years, and there are cases of viable smallpox virions being unearthed in centuries-old mass graves, so there’s no 100% guarantee that we’ve completely wiped that out as well, although we’ve pretty much come as close as we can reasonably assume.

    Also, I’ll agree that the video and narration was a bit simplistic, but still covered some good material about the way influenza works. A bit of a critique, it seemed that they were showing a polymerase from the cell replicating the viral genome, which I’m fairly certain is wrong. Influenza is an RNA virus, which means to replicate its genome it needs an RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase…that is to say a protein that makes RNA out of RNA. Since our cells use DNA as the primary genetic material, we don’t produce this enzyme. The virion brings its polymerase with it, so it’s viral, not cellular.

    Overall, really good video, though. I especially liked how they showed that each virion packs eight segments of it’s genome with it. Each of these segments is unique, and when multiple strands infect the same person (or pig, or bird, or what-have-you), the packaging process isn’t picky about which particle came from which original strand. This means that you can have, in the case of a double-infection, up to 2^8 or 256 different variants of influenza coming out of that cell. This is a big part of why it mutates so quickly and why it’s so difficult to contain.

    As for me, my school offered free flu shots, so I jumped on that train as soon as I had the chance!

  70. Jan

    In the past I’ve viewed getting vaccinated for the flu as one of the “Americans are scared easily” hypes, but I’ve changed my mind after I’ve understood the “herd immunity”.
    I still don’t get a flu vaccination because my government tells me it’s not for me.

    Yeah, really.


  71. Gunnar

    My whole family got flu shots for free last month at a wellness fair sponsored by a local medical group. I have never regretted getting my annual flu shot. The only times I have ever gotten the flu was in years when for one reason or another I missed out on getting a flu shot. Unlike Ray @55 above, I never got the flu during the 21 years I was in the Air Force getting mandatory annual flu shots. I recognize that herd immunity helps to protect those who cannot take flu shots due to allergies and other reasons.

  72. GrogInOhio

    Forwarded to one of my daughters (I have approximately 100 of them) who I’ve nicknamed “Miss I Don’t Want To Get A Flu Shot” and who got H1N1 last year! Thanks…

  73. Kristin

    I used to get the flu shot every year and last year I got it (parly because I like to do everything I can from getting sick and partly because it was required by my school) and my arm swelled up horribly and got red hot. It lasted for a couple of weeks. My doctor told me to never get a flu shot again as he suspects I may have an egg allergy.

  74. mitzi

    I got the shot a couple of days ago, and i think next year i will skip it, my arm hurts really badly, and now i have pains all over and temp also. i neve rgot this before with shots, jsut this time…


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