Flu season takes a toll on students

Claire Peralta, Staff Reporter

The middle of flu season brings the yearly reminder to get your flu shot. Although it’s not too late for a shot, some people are avoiding getting the vaccine because of its ineffectiveness, and the traces of mercury that act as a preservative and de-contaminant.

“The flu vaccine is formulated based on the data and structures of the previous year’s virus,” school nurse Jeannie Haines said. “Obviously it is not going to protect against every case of the flu virus that there is, but it significantly reduces the possibility that you’ll catch the virus. Some people also see statistics of people who are dying from the flu, however those statistics don’t include those who have A, been vaccinated, and B, have been more susceptible to the virus because of a preexisting condition.”

For some people the presence of Thiomerosal, a mercury-based preservative that some say is linked to nervous system damage is a reason to avoid the vaccine.

“The type of mercury that causes damage to the nervous system is methyl mercury, which was removed from the vaccine a long time ago,” pediatrician Rachel Walden said. “The preservative should not be reason for someone to not get a flu shot.”

There are two different types of flu vaccines, the shot and the nasal spray.

“Ultimately the decision is up to the parents of the kids, which type of vaccine they choose,” Walden said. “The nasal spray protects against 2 strains of Influenza A and 2 strains of Influenza B, but it is a live vaccine, meaning that the virus is alive, but attenuated, or weakened. The shot protects against 2 strains of Influenza A, and Influenza B, so the spray actually protects against more strains of the flu, but again, it’s live.”

Although some people have concerns about this year’s flu vaccine, statistics from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate flu shots traditionally help prevent getting sick. But for those that choose not to get one, there’s one thing that everybody can do to improve their chance at staying healthy.

“I am around sick kids all day, and I get my shot, but I also wash my hands constantly,” Haines said. “The most important thing to remember is to wash, wash, wash your hands.”