Flu Vaccines Aren’t Just For Kids

By Bill Kray

I Don’t Want a Shot!

Children quickly associate shots with pain. Some even cry at the mention of receiving a shot. Many adults fear ingredients more than needles, wondering "Will it get me sick?" or "Does it contain mercury?" The CDC shares with the public the content of recommended vaccines.

What’s in the Flu Vaccine?

Today, except for multi-dose vials of flu vaccine, none of the childhood vaccines used routinely in the United States contain mercury (thimerosal) as a preservative.

Type of Ingredient Examples Purpose
Preservatives Thimerosal (only in multi-dose vials of flu vaccine) Prevents contamination
Adjuvants Aluminum salts Helps stimulate the body’s response to the antigens
Stabilizers Sugars, gelatin Maintains vaccine potentcy during transportation and storage
Residual cell culture materials Egg protein To grow enough of the virus or bacteria to make the vaccine
Residual inactivating ingredients Formaldehyde Kill viruses or inactivate toxins during manufacturing process
Residual antibiotics Penicillin, sulfa drugs Prevents contamination by bacteria during vaccine manufacturing process

There is no evidence of harm caused by the small amounts of thimerosal in flu vaccines, except for minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site. Flu vaccines that do not contain thimerosal are available.

On February 27, 2013, VRBAC met and approved for the United States the following WHO-recommended composition for the Northern Hemisphere 2013-2014 influenza vaccine:

  • an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
  • an A(H3N2) virus antigenically like the cell-propagated prototype virus A/Victoria/361/2011;
  • a B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus.

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

While everyone should get a flu vaccine this season, it’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated. Those people include the following:

1. People who are at high risk of developing serious complications (like pneumonia) if they get sick with the flu.

2. People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications (see list above).

  • Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
  • Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old.
  • Health care personnel.

People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs, or who have a severe allergy to any part of this vaccine, may be advised not to get vaccinated. People who have had a mild reaction to egg — that is, one which only involved hives — may receive the flu shot with additional precautions.

Influenza Bronchitis
Fever accompanied by chills and tremors Wheezing
Body aches and pains Shortness of breath
Runny blocked nose with headaches Slight or mild fever
Feeling tired and weak Deep repeated cough, with mucus and phlegm
Coughing and sneezing Weakness and fatigue
Watery eyes Sore throat
Vomiting, diarrhea (common child symptom) Slight pain in the chest area
Sore throat Blocked nose
Sweating Pain in throat

It's a slippery slope from the flu to acute bronchitis or pneumonia. When a person is sick with influenza or common cold, the condition could worsen, and spread to lungs in the form of bronchitis. The combined effect can last for months. The influenza season is already upon us. Have you received your vaccination or are you braving it out due to allergies or a fear of needles?

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Bill Kray

Los Angeles, United States

Vegetarian health advocate, graphic designer, illustrator, programmer and prolific blog writer.