Don't allow misinformation and frighteningly prevalent conspiracy theories to sway you: Yes, you should get a flu shot. And, yes, assuming everyone in your family is at least 6 months old and free of identified risks, they should too. In a flu season where 11 Kern County residents have died from the latest strain as of Jan. 20, this plea ought to seem like a no-brainer.
Sadly, this isn't the case for some. Whether it's movie-star-turned-misguided-crusader Jenny McCarthy spouting how vaccines cause autism or myriad underground "health" bloggers warning that flu shots themselves cause the flu, there's no shortage of noise. Don't buy it. There is no scientifically accepted evidence that flu vaccines are unsafe.
But, for kicks, what exactly is in these shots? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccines often include: aluminum salts to stimulate response to antigens; sugars or gelatin to keep vaccines potent during transport and storage; egg protein to grow enough of the virus to make the vaccine; formaldehyde to kill viruses or inactive toxins; and residual antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination during manufacturing.
The ingredient that has caused the most controversy is thimerosal, a mercury-containing organic compound that has been widely used in vaccines since the 1930s, including multi-dose flu vaccines. But the CDC maintains there's zero evidence that small doses of thimerosal cause any harm (other than minor redness or swelling at the injection site), but manufacturers have stopped including it for children's vaccines as a precaution. Similarly, the FDA says it's working with manufacturers to "reduce or eliminate thimerosal from vaccines."
Unlike children, adults largely have a say in whether they personally get vaccinated. Should you get a flu shot? Weighing the evidence, the answer should be an easy one.