The People's Perspective on Medicine

How Bad Is the Flu? How Good Is the Shot?

We are getting incredibly confusing and conflicting messages about this year’s flu season. First we were told that influenza was hitting early and hitting hard. Network news shows aired scary video clips of sick people in overcrowded emergency rooms. On January 9th the mayor of Boston declared a public health emergency because hospitals in the city were overwhelmed with patients. The city of Boston began offering free flu shots on January 12th hoping to control the epidemic.
On the same day, January 12th, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency for his state and gave pharmacists the go-ahead to administer shots to children as young as 6 months old. Everyone is being urged to get a flu shot ASAP.
So far so bad. Surprisingly, though, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new report suggesting that during the first week in January there had been a decline in high levels of flu activity, especially in the Southeast. The CDC intimated that levels might be dropping in the state of New York, even as New York City was declaring an emergency. There are now 47 states reporting widespread influenza outbreaks. The CDC also noted that doctors’ offices were reporting fewer cases of influenza.
So, has the flu season peaked or are we still in for severe outbreaks for weeks to come? At the moment it would appear that the CDC is hedging its bets. Dr. Thomas Frieden, head of the CDC, says the flu is “elevated” in most of the country and added, “it may be decreasing in some areas, but that’s hard to predict…influenza activity ebbs and flows.”
Bottom line: public health officials do not know where we are in this epidemic. Judging from the doctors in the trenches of emergency departments around the country, it is still very bad. If flu has peaked, they are not seeing it.
What About the Flu Shot?
We were told early in the season that this year’s vaccine was about as good as it gets. In other words, the match between the viral strains circulating in the country and the flu shot that was prepared months ago was 92%. That was very reassuring. But now the CDC reports that the actual effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing influenza illness may be 62%. For the bad influenza A strain of H3N2 that is causing so much misery, the vaccine may only be 55% effective.
If the match between circulating flu and vaccine is so very good this year, why are so many people still getting sick? Well, the dirty little secret that is never mentioned when people are urged to get their shot is that flu vaccines are far from 100% effective. When researchers have reviewed the medical literature for influenza immunization studies published between 1967 and 2011, they’ve concluded that effectiveness ranges from 16% at the bottom to 76% at the top with “pooled efficacy” of about 59% (The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Jan. 2012). That is roughly what the CDC’s preliminary data suggest for this year’s vaccine.
For some, that may mean the glass is more than half full. For others, it suggests that the flu vaccine is not all that great. Even the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, has admitted that “the flu vaccine is far from perfect, but it’s still the best tool to fight the flu.”
Another expert, Thomas Jefferson, MD, has been critical of vaccine effectiveness. Dr. Jefferson is Coordinator of the Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group. These independent analysts have also analyzed all the available influenza studies. Dr. Jefferson points out that in healthy young adults for whom the shots work best, “you have to vaccinate between 33 and 99 healthy adults to avoid one case of influenza…In healthy adults, the vaccines shorten duration of illness by half a working day.” If other consumer goods, such as cars or toasters, were so unreliable, we would be outraged.
To hear a free “bonus” interview with Dr. Jefferson click on this link and then click on the bottom white arrow.
You may also find our Guide to Colds, Coughs and the Flu worth downloading.
People’s Pharmacy Bottom Line:
• We need better influenza vaccinations. Researchers around the world must come up with a better flu shot that works for a wider variety of strains, lasts longer and is far more effective. This should be a doable project, though it will take major resources to accomplish the task.
• Public health officials should be more honest about effectiveness. And we also need better data about adverse reactions. In the effort to encourage everyone to get a flu shot, public health experts have not wanted to dampen enthusiasm. Dr. Jefferson has pointed out that we have been slow to seek information about side effects of the flu shot.

• There is rarely any mention about antiviral drugs during a flu outbreak. There are, however, several medications that actually do seem to work against influenza either to prevent it or speed healing. There is some controversy about the effectiveness of drugs such as Tamiflu, but to date there is no evidence of widespread resistance to the medication. To be effective Tamiflu needs to be taken with 24 to 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) Side Effects:
• Digestive upset, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea

• Headache

• Nosebleeds

• Psychological distress, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations

• Severe skin reactions, rash, redness (require immediate medical attention!)

What Is Your Experience?
We would love to know how you have fared this flu season. Did you get a flu shot? If so, did it work? Please comment below.
Did you get a shot and still come down with the flu? We want to hear your story as well. Did you experience any side effects from the shot? We would like to learn more about the pros and cons of this year’s vaccine.
We would also like to find out about Tamiflu experiences. Did you get a prescription for this oral drug? Did it work to either prevent the flu or speed healing? Did you experience any side effects?
Thanks for sharing your influenza stories this year. It is our sincere wish that you can avoid the flu (take your vitamin D) or, if you come down with it, that you recover quickly. For more information about the effects of vitamin D on the immune system, we suggest you take a moment to read this recent research report.
Here are some tips to avoid catching the flu.
Please share your story below in the comment section and thanks.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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comments (152 total)
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9 years ago I got my last flu shot – within 2 days my right ear began to close up, 2 days later my left ear. Got antibiotic, ears were infected so badly I could barely hear, not better when finished with antibiotics, was almost deaf. Went to ENT dr., who put me on another antibiotic, & had to lance both ears, hearing returned after 2 weeks. I had other symptoms but don’t remember since the hearing problem was so severe & lasted at least a month. Have had reactions to flu shots before – arm swelling up & hot around injection site – won’t take them again. Maybe I’m allergic to eggs, but I have no problem eating them, so what gives?

Thank you for this article on the flu and its vaccine from earlier this year.

I am 46, and have never gotten a flu vaccine, and have never been told my doctor to get a flu shot, and up until reading some articles online today have always thought of the flu shot as an optional preventative step that people could choose to take or not.

This afternoon I’ve read several articles that seem to equate not taking the flu vaccine with not taking childhood immunizations against measles, polio, etc. These articles suggest that one is being selfish and endangering others by not being vaccinated.

The level of alarm in the articles caught me off guard, and I felt like I have accidentally been a vaccine denier all these years without even realizing it.

Reading your article made me feel a bit more sane. Thank You.

Is this publicity push new this fall, or has this been the message for years and I’ve just been oblivious?

Kinda funny they say you can’t get the flu, from the flu shot. The past 7 years of getting the shot, including this year 2013. I got the flu again right around 6 to 7 days after getting the shot. I have been healthy before getting the shot every year for the past 7 years. 6 to 7 days after getting the shot like clock work, I get the flu. Think they need to rethink there statements on how you cannot get the flu, from the flu shot. I have heard 100’s of people complain of the same thing.

During the flu season, had the flu with a re-occurrence at which time I was advised to take the Tamiflu vaccine. There is a caution for “patients with the flu who take this medication may have an increased risk of nervous system problems and abnormal behavior.” I would appreciate further description of these side effects, treatments and prognosis since I was left with the side effects of unintentional movements, twitching/flailing of the left arm, hand and leg. I also have intermittent tingling of the left face.
Simultaneously, I was on Cefuroxime.

May I say “knock on wood”? so far I and my husband have had the flu shots for several years with no bad reactions.
I realize that the CDC uses statistical data to determine which ‘BUGS” to incorporate into a vaccine. So its really a “crap shoot” as to how effective the vaccine will be if a person is unlucky enough to fall victim to an unincorporated strain. –just hope your (and my) luck holds out!

My father had the flu shot in November, and now he has the worst case of the flu I have ever seen. He has a horrific cough which sounds like a dying seal, and has just been given a chest xray because they think he has pneumonia.
He is only in his mid 60’s and I am quite concerned how it has taken him down. He has an antibiotic and a nasal steroid spray for the congestion. I am making him take a probiotic supplement 3 times a day to hopefully ward off complications like c diff.
The biggest problem right now is his aching ribcage and his inability to sleep for more than an hour at a time.

Got my flu shot in late October and had the flu last week. I get the vaccine every year and this is the first case of flu I’ve had in years.

Too Little. Too Late.
I just read you article today and I sure wish I had read it last week. On Monday I went to the Doc on an unrelated issue and, even though I had a bad cold at the time, she insisted I get a flu shot and a Tdap shot because I babysit my grandkids every week. The next day I woke up feeling like I was run over by a train – and I keep getting worse and worse! My head is completely congested, I’m coughing and wheezing, and running a low grade fever (99.8). What a MISTAKE!!! I wish I’d never seen the doc at all!!!!

My husband and I both got flu shots at $29 each last fall when the shots became available. Last week (Jan. 28), we were both sick with the flu and spent 4 days in bed with fever, extreme fatigue, and violent coughing. We know it was the flu because my husband went to the hospital with rapid heart rate, dehydration, and he was actually tested for the flu virus. We have rec’d flu shots every year for many, many years, and we will continue to get our flu shots because we are told it is with CONSIDERATION OF OTHERS to get the flu shots and not spread the disease. I just wish the shots were more effective.

My husband and I both were vaccinated in November in Canada before leaving for Florida. It was not our regular practise to get vaccinated.
One week after, both us had a running nose so bad, that at times we even did not have the time to reach for a Kleenex. We we reported it to Health Canada .
We still have the problem to a lesser degree.

I am 50 y/o and have had the flu twice in my life, both times were FROM THE FLU SHOT!!! The first one i received was in Boot Camp, in which I was hospitalized with severe flu for over a week. Same thing happened a year later when I received the 2nd one, after which I was exempt from ever having to have another one, Thank God!
I was in the medical field most of my life and was around the sickest of the sick but never got the flu and NEVER received a flu shot, but everyone I worked with would take the flu shot and get sick with the flu, sometimes SEVERAL TIMES DURING THE SEASON!!
With all the health risks associated with the shot and the little, if any, immunnity I have seen from it, it really is just not worth it.

Haven’t had a flu shot since I was a kid and had a bad reaction and was told not to have one again. With all the publicity, and being over 60 and exposed to children at work, I decided to have the flu shot again this year. I have been fatigued for 4 days since the shot and yesterday started having vertigo and clogged ear. Doubt if I’ll have another flu shot next year.

My family and I have never taken the flu shot and seldom, if ever, get sick. We eat vegetables raised in our garden and minimize meat. We eat a lot of olive oil, butter, and spelt.
We also know several doctors who will not take flu vaccines. They say, privately, that they don’t trust it. Admittedly, these MDs are suspicious of a lot of medical procedures, especially chemo-therapy and radiation treatments, saying that the only thing these treatments do for sure is increase hospital billings.
Why would the CDC recommend flu vaccines that are 50-60% effective? Who benefits from increased sales of vaccines? And what other effects do they produce in you that they’re not telling you about? You’ll never know.
We no longer have a true medical profession in the United States.
What we have in it’s place is a medical industry.
Best to rest when you get sick and let the body heal itself. If you break your arm, that’s the time see a doctor.

I decided to get the flu shot this year for the first time because of helping with elderly relatives’ care. I got the shot the first week in Dec. and am now on my seventh day with the flu in January. This is the first day I have been able to hold my head up. I have had the flu twice in my life, one lasting 3 days and the other 5 days. After reading the information shared, I don’t think I’ll bother with the shot again.

Got the shot for the first time and did not get the flu; guess it worked.

So far only the one un-vaccinated person in our household has come down with anything flu like. I am ambivalent about the vaccine, but work in a hospital where it’s required or else we need to wear masks at all times. I think that’s idiotic. So I get the vaccine and forget about.

I received the flu shot in early November 2012. Came down with the classic flu symptoms starting Jan 2, but did not go to the doctor to have it tested.
I also did lots of things to try to prevent it or limit it- wash hands frequently, don’t touch door handles, take lots of vitamin D, gargle with Listerine when the symptoms started, soaked in a hot bath, drank plenty of water, etc.
I went back to work after 1 week, but my energy levels weren’t back for 10 days. I don’t think the shot worked for me this year.

I tend to agree with the person who said your immune system was compromised and that didn’t help at all, but I’m a skeptic when it comes to the flu shot’s effectiveness. You may have gotten the flu regardless of whether you had the surgery.

Yes, I am one of those people who yearly gets a flu shot because I have permanent damage to my left lung from radiation which I had because of breast cancer. The shot has normally seemed to help keep me well, but this year I got the upper respiratory bug, fever, chills, sorethroat, a serious cough & generally feeling pretty crummy for 3 weeks.
I had gone to the allergist near the onset & he thought my breathing test was OK & assured me this was only lasting 3-5 days & if I wasn’t better by the 5th day, call him. Well, the 5th day was a Sun. (Sorry but you can die for all the medical profession cares when you get sick on Sat. or Sun.) I went to my primary care office for my weekly allergy shots & they thought I sounded terrible & immediately called in a Z/pack which I took. It helped somewhat, but I still have some residule effects.
I got sick, but my husband did not nor my handicapped daughter for which I am thankful & yet we all got the shots at the same time. I did have a shoulder/joint replacement in Oct after I had gotten the shot & someone said they felt my immune system was compromised because of the surgery & that’s why I got sick.

I received the flu shot on a Sat at noon. I awakened on Sunday morning with aches and pains.. I could not differentiate whether it was muscular or joint. It actually scared me as I have never had something like this. No fever, no chills nothing like that. At the age of 60, I felt like a 90 year old woman with arthritis or some muscular problem. I got up Monday, very gently, and noticed I had no pain .. I have not been sick but have a little cough which may be “allergy ” or “sinus” nothing much out of ordinary and a bit tired. On my way to work Monday morning, I thought perhaps it might have been the result of the shot. Just had never been so “bruised all over feeling” even the bottom of my toes, my finger tips etc… was sooooooooooo strange. Had only started taking the flu shot three years before ..this was my forth shot since the ONE I took for swine flu back in 70’s.

I did not get a flu shot this year because I have severe doubts about their efficacy. I did come down with a confirmed case of Type A flu midway through Christmas Day. In under 48 hours I was able to see my family doctor, and began taking Tamiflu. I received no relief from the flu symptoms, which included fever, aching legs, headache, bronchial congestion, nasal congestion and a deep cough.
The Tamiflu side effects included stomach pain and diarrhea. I was sick for 16 days and spent most of that time in bed. A friend who did receive the vaccination was sick for almost exactly the same amount of time, with almost exactly the same symptoms, and she also received no relief from Tamiflu. In our cases, the medical profession was unable to offer significant help. This year I first understood how someone could die from the flu. It’s pretty bad stuff.

I neglected to mention that many years ago I came down with the flu within days of getting a flu shot. I believe it was a result of the so called live virus immunization used then. It made me very very ill so I didn’t want to repeat that experience, and didn’t get flu shots for years after.
My current doctor assured me that the inoculation they use these days is quite different, and I got the shot on his recommendation. He also warns all his patients that prevention is important, and that includes frequent hand washing, use of hand gel, avoiding crowds if possible and keeping distance from anyone who has any signs of illness to the point of not being in the same room with them if possible. My daughter and grandson were on a recent flight with an ill passenger who was coughing, sweaty, etc. He was so obviously sick with something resembling flu, constantly using tissues, etc, that fellow passengers all around him were issued disposable face masks.
Why on earth wasn’t this man denied boarding by the airline? They’ll keep drunks from boarding, why not obviously ill people?

I’m a healthy 69 year old Floridian. I got the flu shot last week in response to all the news stories. I had no adverse reactions from it. Not even a sore arm. Seems to me that even if it’s only 60% effective, that’s better than having 0 % protection without the shot. I look at immunizations this way… if many people protect themselves against the flu by getting the shots, they are reducing the number of people who will get sick and spread the flu to others. The exact numbers will never be known.
I have been reading that the CDC can only report on those flu cases that are reported to them. Many doctors don’t report formally, nor do many walk in clinics. There’s a lot of anecdotal information that flu is affecting a lot of people.

I did not get the flu shot and I have not gotten the flu.

I’ve had asthma for most of my life and used to get the flu every year and then get sicker with asthma. I’ve been getting the flu shot since the late 70s and haven’t had the flu since nor any complications from the vaccine. The one year I didn’t get the flu shot I got the flu three times.

I agree that there is a “pharmaceutical profits” piece to all of this. Fear is being used to compel people to get the shot. Prevention, I would say is the best course. I find, and as per my ND, that echinacea and golden seal are good protectors. At the first sign of any cold like symptoms I start taking these in combination in tincture form. Seems to work so far. Eat well, stay away from cigarettes and alcohol, and crowded places.

We are both 65, had flu shots in October. We think we are just finishing up mild cases of flu- 4 days of aches, congestion with deep cough, low grade fever. Came on very quickly. We both had colds last month and this was a lot different.

I am 58 and had a flu shot in October with no side affects. I had the flu a few weeks ago; 102 temp for 2 days, very achy and congested, symptoms lasted about 5 days.

Don’t get the flu shot, don’t get the flu. I think it has more to do with overall health, especially nutritional health. Ever heard of the “superbug”? Too many antibiotics used against viruses. Antibiotics are for use, sparingly, against bacterial infections. Get the refined carbohydrates out of the diet. Ie: white bread (wheat’s marginally ok), pasta, sugar (inc. sodas); potatoes (skin’s ok marginally); rice (brown’s ok occasionally). These are just examples, but go a long way. Replace them with vegetables – preferably raw. Wash good to get rid of the chemicals used to grow, transport, etc. as much as possible.
Notice, I didn’t say fat in meat. The problem there is not the fat, it’s the synthetic hormones that accumulate there. The fat’s healthy in limited amounts, but how do you get the synthetic hormones out? Man’s done it again. Took something good and messed it up in the name of profit. I have an idea of what I’m saying – something to do with my degree in biochem or the one in nutrition or others, undergraduate and graduate?

I will not forget this past year’s bout w/the flu and the effects of the Tamiflu medication I took. I cannot remember in all of my years (73) a worst time w/the the flu. I did not get a flu shot this year as in the past. I did get the Tamiflu medication which cost me $41 with my insurance 3 days after the onset. I took it for 5 days as directed. During that time, and for 2 weeks afterwards, I battled fever, body aches, diarrhea, coughing, no appetite, stomach pains and a tiredness I could not shake.
NOW for the after effects, which were gas, diarrhea, and stomach cramps so bad I cried. I started taking a probotic to offset the damage the Tamiflu had created in my gut and drinking lots of ginger tea. Finally a month later, have still some green tinged mucus I cough up. My husband had much the same problems, except the severe stomach cramps. His problem now is a hacking cough??? I won’t ever take Tamiflu again but will certainly get a flu shot, because as they say, “prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Haven’t had a flu shot this year. I’m 74. My daughter always complains that I get sick whenever I get the flu shot. Planned to get it but wasn’t feeling too good so I passed. Now I don’t want to get it as am planning on foot surgery next month and I can’t afford to be sick. Whenever I feel that I might be coming down with a cold or flu I take a natural cold remedy put out by Source Naturals. It usually helps.

Am 74 years old. Do not get flu shots ever. Have been fine so far this flu season. Live in central Fla. Hope luck holds! Been years since I have had flu. Love all your information sent in your e-mails!!

I get my flu shot every year, and have been very lucky to avoid the flu. I may get a cold occasionally, but nothing that requires bed rest, or a doctors visit. Highly recommend that everyone get the shot. It works.

My employer offers free flu shots to employees. I never get it. My observation is that most of the people who get the shot get sick. I never get sick. Based on the data in the article, vaccinating 33 to 99 people will save 1/2 day of sick time. That cost benefit doesn’t make any sense. There must be something else behind the motivation to vaccinate everyone.

The last time I had the flu was about 1980. I was so sick and had 2 small children. Awful, Awful, Awful. I have taken a flu shot since that time and have not had the flu. I hope I’m not jinxing myself. My glass is half full.

yes, had my flu shot and so far it has worked well. Got in way in October and I think getting it quickly in the fall may be better than waiting later on in the year.

I always get the flu shots and when the H1N1 was going around I got it. This year I got the flu 2 days after Christmas and just now am beginning to feel better although the cough lingers. I did not have the fever this year but all other symptoms. My husband also always gets the flu shots and never gets any flu. I would like to know more about the mercury that is in the flu shots and the dangers of it.

I did recieve the flu shot and unfortunatley I did get the flu. I work in correctional managed care and in the enclosed envirnment I work in it spread quickley. I will continue to get the flu shot even after I got the flu this year as I wouldnt like to see how bad I would have been had I not gotten the shot.

I have never had a flu shot and never intend to get one. I always refuse when routinely urged to do so by my doctor. And I explain the reason for my refusal: Years ago I read that each year’s flu vaccine is developed at least a year in advance and that even then it’s a case of pure guesswork as to how the virus may mutate for the coming flu season.
Out of all the possible strains and mutations, what’s the likelihood of medical science accurately guessing the very one that will be prevalent a year from now? I think it’s zero. I have noticed my doctor does not argue with me. In my opinion, annual flu shots are nothing more than a gimmick for more profit by Big Pharma.
I’m 73 and I’ve had flu two times in my life, once in my 20’s (Asian flu) and once about 20 years ago (when I worked in a hospital). I very seldom have colds and take Vitamin C (1000 mcg) D3 (2000 iu), and Flaxseed Oil (1400 mcg) supplements daily, as well as Rx’s for hypertension. I eat sensibly and get regular exercise, walking 3-4 miles three times a week.

I simply can’t imagine being one of these parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids, then the child gets sick and dies. Knowing you possibly could have prevented it with a simple shot…Even an imperfect shot is better than nothing.

I am 67 got the Flu shot in October but I am sick now while last couple of years I never got flu. I think this year the virus is different!

My hustband and I are in our 60’s and got our flu shots. Our 8 yr. old grand-daughter got the flu. Her mom works so we kept her here. We took care of her for 4 days plus. Her temp. got up to 104.7 and she coughed and coughed. But we never got it!

I had the flu and it wasn’t that bad. I know some have had it worse. I’m glad it wasn’t that bad, I don’t plan to get the vaccine next year either. I don’t want that mercury, etc.

My wife and I are both 85. We got our flu shots and so far are A-OK.

I ,too, would like an answer to a question asked above: How many people who got the flu shot got the flu died of the flu? and the question that goes with it – how many who died of the flu had not gotten the flu shot?

The year I had H1N1, I went to the hospital for a lung x-ray ad directed by my general practitioner. They put me in a dark room and no one spoke to me for an hour, so I went home and back to bed… obviously feeling terrible. No one wanted to be exposed to me. Don’t recall ever being treated that badly.
Then I went back to work when I felt better and people told me to go home again, because anyone who was at work and healthy didn’t want to be around me, regardless of the fact that I was no longer contagious. In addition to feeling terrible, I felt mistreated at the hospital and isolated at work. It was wonderful to get better and move forward from that experience.
Since retiring I have not gotten the flu shot (because I have a sense that industry is pushing something unnecessary for all) and have not gotten sick. Wash my hands all the time. Take some vitamin D and … I knock on wood.
Happy to hear others have avoided being sick too. It’s a terrible feeling.

I had a flu shot in 2003, the only one I’ve ever had. After that I was sick almost the whole winter with one cold after another. I felt that the shot lowered my immunity. I’ve never had another shot and never want another. I am 70 and had the flu in 1957. It was awful. I had never hurt like that before. Then in the 70’s I also had the flu. I had children then who brought it home from school. Now I can stay away from children during flu season. I call kids little germ carriers. I also stay home in flu season except to go to the grocery store. Haven’t had the flu for 40 some odd years. Wash my hands and get plenty of fluids and lots of sleep. I always say no when a doctor wants me to get a flu shot. I want to avoid as many shots and pills as I can.

My husband and I received the flu vaccine same day, same place in October. I’ve been fine, not sick at all this season, especially good since I assist my sister who is immuno-suppressed due to chemo and radiation.
My poor husband wasn’t so lucky. Twelve days after the flu shot, he apparently contracted flu anyway. The usual fever, muscle aches, coughing, overall misery. He spent five days in bed and refused to let me call his physician. I had forgotten that sometimes the antivirals can help make your bout with the flu less miserable. We’re both in our mid-sixties. I think we should probably get the vaccine earlier next year.
I had the influenza virus twice that I remember, in 1971 and 1980. I was much younger then, but don’t recall ever having been that sick, except measles, age 7.
I also received the pneumonia vaccine this month at my annual physical.
Thank you for your service.


I took the flu shot in October and got the flu in December, then I got pneumonia and bronchitis. Took me 1 month to feel better.
Tamiflu must have helped and kept my husband from getting it too. But I don’t understand why I got pneumonia and bronchitis when I did not go nowhere, stayed in, and it came immediately after the flu. Then I had to have a chest x-ray and take Avelox, pearles and cough medicine for the terrible coughing.

I received the flu shot and pneumonia shot last October. As of this date, I have not been sick or even had a cold. I am 59 yrs. old and work in the Public Library full-time – people come in sick and touch books and computers with dirty hands. We have sanitizer for them to use. I am also a diabetic. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer all day long.

Had the flu shot in late October? Had the flu starting on January 4th at 4:30 p.m. It was almost that exact. Felt fine until about 4 and then realized I was sick. It was the old fashioned flu where the truck keeps driving over your body, making you ache everywhere. Fever intermittent, chills intermittent. I’m over the flu but now have a lingering chest cold with a lot of mucous.
I don’t know how the CDC can track the flu if none of us are reported as having it. No one but my husband knows I was sick so how does the CDC know about flu in Southern California (Los Angeles).

Gordon remarks that he had the flu at age 21, and if my arithmetic is right that would have been in 1962 or 63. Those were bad years, as was 1957-58 and 1967=68. Those of us who survived those epidemics probably have immunity to some of the strains going around now. I can remember being VERY sick in 1967 before the peak of that season, and never remember having the flu since then, although I do get the shots whenever they are available.
We do need to practice handwashing every time we come in from being out in public. After church greeting my husband & I immediately use hand sanitizer, and pass it to those around us.
The woman who stays home in flu season is also wise, as are all those who try to keep their immune system up.

I have received the flu shot for as long as I can remember and never got the flu. This year I had my flu vaccine shot early October and came down with the flu Jan 8, 2013.
Very little nasal congestion but the cough is terrible up to the point where my midriff hurts. I read that only 60-62% of people receiving the flu vaccine avoid the flu.

Have been taking flu shot for many years. No flu for many years. No side effects.
Have been taking Vit D for about the last 5 years.
Am 88 years old.
Please keep up your excellent work!!

I had the ‘flu shot in September and was diagnosed with Type A influenza on Jan. 8. Your information is much more thorough than the other news media and does not take any additional time. People need to know that the vaccine helps but is not a 100% guarantee as many who should know better keep saying publicly. I think my case was relatively mild and over in 5 days with the help of Tamiflu. I had no side effects.
Thank you for your good work.

My wife is a nurse in a large hospital. She was suspended pending termination for not getting a flu shot. They said No shot, No job. She felt betrayed by the hospital but got the shot. She felt horrible and was going to stay home a few days to get over reaction. Got called in demanding she work because over half of nursing staff in lab was out with the flu. All had to have their shot. Had to send patients to another hospital due to being short staffed.
Two nurses came in to work coughing and feeling feverish. They had no time off left so they said they would gut it out. At least the administration was happy with 100 percent compliance. If a nurse gets a patient sick doesn’t that help out the hospitals bottom line?

It is also worth noting that sometimes people are already coming down with a cold, the actual flu, or some other virus when they get their shot. So they blame the shot.
The person who blamed her stomach virus a week after her flu shot on the vaccine is mistaken. Stomach viruses are NOT the “flu”.

It is worth noting that the term “flu” has come into use for any viral illness (including the common cold).
Influenza (which is the flu under discussion for which vaccines are given) is very different. Most of the people who tell you they “got the flu” really just had a horrendous cold.
Colds come on more gradually, usually starting with with nasal symptoms, sneezing, sore throat, and low or nonexistent fever. Sometimes headache and some fatigue (but not the kind where you can’t function at all).
THE Flu comes on suddenly, is characterized by fever (moderate to high), chills, pronounced headache, and severe all-over body aches (like deep bone aching). Chest discomfort may be pronounced. Generally no sore throat or sneezing. Fatigue is pronounced.
I have had flu (the real deal) twice that I know of, once in the early 1970’s (then called the “London Flu”). I was young and healthy, but took several weeks to fully recover strength after the illness.
I have been taking the flu shot since 2007. The first shot made me ill for about 6 hours later that day (with symptoms that made me think I was coming down with the flu).
Since then, no effects.
And no flu.

I have never had the flu and I have never had the flu shot. I am a nurse w/ over 30 years of hospital and nursing home experience. I spent 10 years in ICU/CCU. I employ good hand washing, good nutrition and believe my immune system is designed to fight anything I come in contact with if I treat my body well. I take vitamins and supplements, avoid processed foods, eat mostly organic, stay active and have a strong faith in God. I’ll be 70 yrs. old in March and expect to continue living in good health.
No flu shots, thank you!

I have chosen to never take the flu vaccine after my mother contracted Garron Barre after having the vaccine. She had to re-learn to walk, talk, feed herself, write – basically everything. I am 72 and can’t remember when I have had the flu. Maybe once in the ’60s but I developed flu like symptoms after having a tetanus shot following cutting my foot in a lake incident. I attribute the symptoms to a reaction to that rather than the flu. Until and if the vaccine is proved both safe and effective I will stick with prevention through nutrition and cleanliness practices.

I received my flu shot December 20, 2012. I had a severe, localized allergic reaction to it: swelling, hot, red and very painful. It got progressively worse over a 2-day period. A friend who is a nurse advised me to take Benedryl immediately, along with extra-strength tylenol. After 2 days of taking both the reaction subsided.
I am immuno-compromised. I have lupus, sjogren’s syndrome, microvascular syndrome, fibromyalgia and take a myriad of medications to control these disorders. Now I have to worry about getting a systemic reaction to the flu vaccine!

So, we still have not a CLUE!
I will keep taking the shot, every SEPTEMBER!. My assumption is that an early shot gives my body longer to build antibodies. (I know that’s probably BS) The main thing is I take a shot every year (except one, 1977, I think) and I only had flu one year (yes, 1977)!

I have not had a virus of any kind for years, but this year I got whatever bug is attacking California. I do not get flu shots. My friends have all the same symptoms I have and have been sick since before Christmas. They both had the flu shot. California is one of 3 states that has very little influenza, we just have some virus with sore throat, cough that hangs on and generally feeling lousy with a low grade fever.
On CBS This Morning last week a report was made that implied that the CDC wants you to get the flu shot and the numbers are not as bad as they would make them seem. That the numbers are about the same as last year. I have gone back and tried to find the interview but can’t remember exactly what day it was. I doubt most people are being tested to prove whether or not they have the specific strains of influenza that the vaccine was developed for.
It’s too costly to test everybody I’m sure, so how do we know what the numbers are ? I don’t think we do. Flu is a catch all word that means so many things.

I have never received a flu shot and never will. Have not come down with it since I was a child (am 52 now). Since I started taking high doses of vitamin c in 2000 I have only been sick about 3 times and then they were only 24 hr deals. They say vitamin c doesn’t help. I have to disagree. The proof is in the record for lack of sickness as far as I’m concerned.

Your article regarding the flu was very informative and helpful! My wife and I are in our early eighties and have always received a flu shot. At the most, we had mild symptoms and returned to normal in 3 to 4 days. We are very much in favor of flu shots! Also, we enjoy your website. Thank you.

I was teaching school in the fall of 1976 and was required to get the Swine Flu shot. In January 1977 I came down with a bad case of the flu. Since that one shot I have never had another and have never had the flu. I do take a number of supplements which keep me very well all the year.

I had the flu for three years in a row in the early 1900’s and was sick for two to three weeks each time. Then I learned about supplements to boost my immune system. I haven’t had a flu shot or the flu since and rarely get a cold.

HUMANS ARE VIRUSES’ BEST FRIENDS: Why? Flu viruses flourish so well because humans are too lazy, too ignorant, too selfish to do 2 simple things that can saves millions of lives and dollars: (1) WASH YOUR HANDS! & (2)COVER YOUR COUGHS, SNEEZE WITHIN THE CROOK OF YOUR ELBOW. SCHOOLS should demand kids sanitize their hands before eating. SIMPLE STUFF and yet people don’t give a hoot…. We should all be the “sneeze police” and remind others to cover their flu germs! LET’S EVOLVE PEOPLE… THERE ARE NO MORE EXCUSES!

My wife and I are both in our 70’s. We have NEVER had a flu shot and NEVER had the flu. ever. So why mess with success?

I got the flu shot in early November. In January I developed “something”. Aches, pain, bad sore throat but no fever. It has lasted for 10 days. The throat pain has stopped but the malaise is unpleasant. Now I have a head full of CLEAR mucus, a tickle in my throat and generally feel punk. I don’t have any idea what this is…a low-grade flu?

I got the flu vaccine. Within a week I came down with a virulent flu virus. It began with projectile vomiting, diarrhea, fever, aches and pains. All symptoms lasted for a week; I could not get out of the bed except to go to the bathroom. I got some medicine for the vomiting after a few days which relieved that symptom. Otherwise, I gutted it out and gradually improved. It was absolutely awful!

I have gotten a flu shot every year since 1994. I got my shot this year in September. So far I have not gotten the flu. I have not experienced any real side effects from the flu shot other than a bit of a sore arm. My experience has been that when I get the flu it is a milder case of it.

I am 68, my husband is 84. We both got flu shots, as we always have. He got sick first and symptoms lasted a little over a week. I followed him by a few days and am now in day 15 with only small improvement. Our symptoms include sore throat, headache, head congestion, productive cough, loss of voice but no appreciable fever or GI upset for either of us.
My main question: is this a flu or a bad cold?
We take few OTC remedies because we are both on Coumadin but I did try a dextromethorphan/guaifenesin product and had some loosening of mucus but didn’t like the overall drying and was suspicious of the systemic effect that caused bright lemon-yellow urine. Also, we didn’t see our GPs since this is almost certainly viral and should not have antibiotics thrown at it.
BTW, this was the first cold/flu for either of us in about 10-15 years. My theory on that is that you only get each virus strain once and as you age you run into more and more that you have already had and are immune to. This was our unlucky year. Any scientific evidence for that?
Thanks, Lucy Ryan

I am 67 years old. I had a flu shot in October (standard shot, not the enhanced strength).
I developed a sore throat on 12/23. The next day my throat was better but I had dry painful coughing spasms, thick bloody nasal discharge, and an intermittent fever.
I went to a doctor on 12/26. The nurse swabbed my nostril and tested for flu virus. The test was positive so the doctor started me on Tamiflu. My cough improved over the next several days, but the other symptoms stayed the same for a few days and then got worse.
I went back to the doctor on 1/9. The nurse tested for flu virus again, and the test was negative this time. The doctor diagnosed me with a bacterial sinus infection, and started me on amoxicillin. I am slowly improving.

I have not had the shot and have not had the flu.

I have never gotten a flu shot, nor has my 92 year-old mother, and neither of us has come down with the flu. I think some of us have a built-in immune system possibly, and that by getting the flu shot we’ll experience side effects symptomatic of the flu. Additionally, I don’t trust the flu shots. They haven’t been shown to be effective enough, and I fear the side effects would be the same as or worse than the actual flu.

I got the flu shot. My doctor says I have a “mild” case of the flu. Certainly this is not near as bad as the Asian Flu I got in high school in 1958 that laid me out flat. But this one now is remarkable for its duration and the level of fatigue. I’ve slept on the couch with my cat for four days, a little less the last two, but I am weak. Eating healthy, drinking soup and lots of water. I want to feel well and energetic again! Boring not to feel like doing anything. Even reading is a chore. Did read your post though:-))

I am 74 and get the vaccine every year, and so far haven’t ever gotten the flu until this year. I received the shot in September with no problems… I had the flu starting after Christmas holidays. I had fever, aches & coughing… my Dr. prescribed Tamiflu. It seem to help. I wonder how bad my flu would have been if I had not had the shot or the Tamiflu. I still have a cough. I do think I will continue to received the shot every year.

In 1957 I had a flu shot and got very sick. Since then I have avoided the shots. I might have had the flu once, at the time we could not decide if it was flu or a very bad cold. Whatever it was, I was in bed for most of three days. Not enough to scare me into taking flu shots. It has been 55+ years, plus, of course, the years before, and a one time maybe flu. I wash my hands a lot, take a lot of supplements including D3, 5000 units, C 2-3 grams daily, and so on.
As I am a diabetic who also has celiac, I eat a fairly healthy diet, no grains. Unlike some, I am not fit, have had cancer four times, have fibro, now muscle spasms, can no longer go to the fitness center. However, I am fighting it, intend to resume exercise as soon as I find out the cause of the spasms and defeat them. I believe diet and supplementing need to be at optimal levels to avoid colds, flu and upper respiratory illness.

I do not get the flu shot and I don’t get the flu or colds because during flu season I only go out when necessary such as to the grocery store once a week. Fortunately I am retired and don’t have to go to work and be exposed to the flu and colds. I do not have guests over when disease is going around.
My housekeeper only comes every two weeks in flu season and she knows not to come if she is sick, or if her baby granddaughter is sick and she is sick most of the time as she is only one year old. That child gives sickness to their entire household of three generations. They take her out 6-7 times a week to the worst crowded stores such as Walmart and Target and other similar stores where I would not go any time because of the masses of people milling around.
The only time to go out around flu is when a friend or family member is hospitalized and then I wear a good mask and go see that person is getting appropriate treatment. And I wash my hands frequently and keep hands away from face.
I consider flu season a great time to stay home, catch up on reading, listen to music, clean out closets, brush up on foreign languages I speak, cook and relax.
It is a quiet time in the garden and I can look out the window and enjoy the views.
Adjusting your life to the seasons or the situations is logical and rewarding if you are lucky enough to be able to live this way. There is entirely too much teeming and milling, toing and froing in this world. Stay home if you can and enjoy life in peace and health.

I’m a big fan of yours but have to say I am surprised by the tone of your reporting on the flu outbreak. It seems harsh given all the variables in play when the vaccine is being developed. There is always room for improvement and we do rely on you to help the cause, but it seems you can best help by dispensing tips on how to avoid getting the flu or how to recover from it. With all that you have been writing about, your advice on these matters is nearly lost.
I get the vaccine every year, and so far haven’t ever gotten the flu. I use common-sense measures: frequent hand-washing, getting plenty of sleep, taking extra vitamins and I avoid people who have the flu when possible. And, I am not embarrassed about using the Clorox wipes I carry with me to wipe down surfaces like bare restaurant tables or airlines tray tables and chair arms, although I don’t make a big production out of it and I do these things all the time, not only during flu season. It helps. Thanks for the chance to voice my opinion.

When I was 21 years old I had a Flu Vaccine that contained the Live Virus (I am now 71) and I came down with a really bad case of the Flu. I had to hold my knees against my chest to cough. I have never forgotten it. In fact, I think that I might be immune to the Flu because I have not had the Flu since that time.
I did not get a Flu shot this year, and have probably received about 5 Flu shots in the past 20 years, at the insistence of my doctor. I mostly avoid the shot since I had the flu 50 years ago.

Have not had the flu in 20 years and stopped taking flu shots 10 years ago. I never get the flu. My internist talked me into taking it this week due to the virulence of this flu. I told her if I get the flu this year I will blame the injection. It seems that whether you get the flu or not is a very personal event. I am 67 years old.

I have never had the flu, colds yes, flu no. I got the flu shot in October for the first time in my life (age 59). I am a nurse…I know shame on me…this year it was mandatory. I’ve had 2 colds but no flu.

My husband got his flu shot in October and has been fine so far. I got mine in December. However, I got a severe stomach flu this week. This is day 4 and I still feel queasy. Many family members, at least 10 including 3 children under age 5, have suffered through the stomach flu. It struck the first victim before Christmas….. I just seem to be the latest.

I am 71years old and take all the recommended suppliments. I have NOT had a flu shot since 1983, as I always got flu like illnesses following them and often the flu also. [It may be a “dead” virus but my body still treats it as an invasion]
I got the type A flu this year [had all the previous Type A flu also:i.e. Hong Kong, Asian, etc] and have been down with a cough for 2 weeks but NO secondary infections! This indicated to me that the nutritional aids and diet are working but with a compromised immune system I am still susceptible to any virus. [Had Chronic Fatigue since 1987]
NO flu shots for me! They are not that effective in people over 65 anyway!

I am 82 and have not had a flu shot in about 7 yrs. ””””’flu shot or no flu shot still get sick. Antibiotics do not agree with me. ‘virus meds. do. Also I was told that you don’t get flu shots if you have Lupus. Pro or Con? I only know that flu shots don’t agree with me. And then my Lupus is diagnosed negative one time and positive the next time. I do what I can for myself. Still not in favor of flu shots. I leave my husband take them.

My husband (age 81) and I (79) got flu shots in late October. We caught holiday colds, but no flu as yet. But then, how does one know if he/she would not have had it anyway, or if the shot prevented it??

I am a flu shot “addict” and had my first (experimental) one in the sixties, in England. Seems to have worked for me.

I haven’t had the flu for so long that I forget when I had it last. I am 71 and I never get the flu shots for the reasons that I don’t trust the government and all the lies that they had told us in the past about flus and other things. I take many supplements and exercise 4 to 5 days a week. Never get a cold and never feel sick. My doctors all recommend I get a flu shot and they tell me they get one. My sis is a RN and doesn’t get the flu shots and never gets the flu, she says most of her RN friends don’t get the flu shot either.

Tamiflu reduces length of flu by 6 to 8 hours. It is a scam and not worth your time. Worth a try if you’re dying in a nursing home but not a substitute for a flu shot in the general public.

I am 72 yrs. old never get the shot and never will. I am a RN so have a little education. I think the media is always over reacting- they dont have anything exciting to talk about so make up all the hoopla about nothing. Sometimes I wonder who is making all the money off all these various shots and vaccines.

I’m in Day 7 of what I imagine is the flu because of classic symptoms. By now the fever, aches and heavy coughing and sneezing are done but my appetite is still depressed and I can’t seem to get my energy back. I’m 75 and never get a flu shot. I must say I find all the constant pressure to get a flu shot aggravating and it really has the effect of making me distrustful. I have the fond hope that this bout with the flu (the first in several years for me) will build personal immunity to whatever strain I have. Will this actually happen for me and the many others with this year’s flu?

I did not get the flu shot this year, and I now have the flu. (I had gotten the flu shot for the past 2 years, and I got the flu 3 times in those 2 years, so I thought I’d try something different this year.)I went to the doctor in the first 48 hrs, tested positive for flu, and got Tamiflu. I do have some side effects, especially mild nausea and dizziness, but my flu symptoms (fever, aches, headache, cough) were better so quickly, and I’ll be back at work tomorrow, which will be day 6. I have a little congestion and cough left, but I feel so much better. I hope I’m no longer contagious.

In past years, because I am allergic to the preservative used in the flu vaccine, I opted not to get it. Three years ago, I suffered through a very bad case of flu…decided to look into preservative-free vaccines. That was fine for two years; this year’s vaccine made me sicker than I can ever remember. A few hours after receiving the shot, I started feeling terrible. We were expecting guests for dinner that evening, but I had to go to bed. I was in agony with the worst headache I’ve ever experienced, body aches from scalp to toenail, nausea very close to being physically sick, a TERRIBLE night—sleeping only from exhaustion. It took many weeks before I felt 100%. I will NEVER AGAIN get a flu shot.

Haven’t had a flu shot for 25 years. Had a severe reaction and have been told to never take it. So far this year no flu, almost afraid to say that. Haven’t had the flu for 4 years.

I’m a female age 67 years old.
This is the first year I haven’t gotten the flu shot in about 10 years. I have a mechanical mitrail valve, pacer, and sjogrens syndrome. I’m aware of the fact that with my history I most definitely should always be vaccinated. I take 2000 iu vitamin d3 ,4000 iu fish oil ,rx vitamin b complex and a multi vitamin. I’m subjected to the virus from my two adult daughters who work outside the home.They too take the same vitamins. So far none of us have had any symptoms. Next Nov. I, no WE will get the shot !!

I started feeling very bad with flu like symptoms on a Monday about 1.5 weeks before Christmas. Had extreme chills and sweating at the same time. Feeling bad enough to stay home on Tues and went to doc. I tested positive for flu and got RX for Tamiflu by Tues afternoon. Surprised that I had the flu, since I had a flu shot in October. Doc said it would likely be an “attenuated” case since I had the shot. Did not see a lot a change at first, but the chills went away. Mainly taking Mucinex-DM and Sudafed to stop cough and keep nasal passages open. Began to feel more congestion and went back to doc on Friday — stayed home all of this week. I requested an RX for Cefdinir (though reluctant) he agreed since he heard some slight indication in lower lung. By Monday I was back at work, though still feeling weak. By Wednesday of this week we left on planned trip for Christmas and was basically OK except noticed ears plugging up as we got into mountains. By Thurs felt pretty good. I did not notice any side effects from the Tamiflu. I believe there is a good chance that the combination of Tamiflu and the anti-biotic did help in much faster recovery.
I have had this sort of illness last for a month or more in the past.
Two years ago, I had a similar situation and after about 2 weeks of illness and got RX for Levaquin (750mg) — within about 1 or 2 days I thought I was going crazy and quit taking it. The final RX was Cefdinir, and I finally recovered with no side effects.

Have not had the flu in the last 37 years. Don’t get the flu shots. Maybe the bad case of the flu I had when I was 35 years old gave me some protection.

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