Flu Vaccination Concerns Vermonters

flu shot rebeccaVERMONT - Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is caused by viruses that affect and infect the throat, nose, and lungs. Influenza is spread through the air by coughing and sneezing.

In the northern hemisphere, flu season peaks in February, but can begin as early as October.

The statistic most seen comes from the department of health, that says over 36,000 people in the United States die yearly from complications of the flu. That statistic was calculated back in 1999 when flu related deaths first hit their peak.

A new study says in the past 31 seasons since that number was taken, the average yearly deaths in the United States was 23,607 yearly, but that number can very dramatically from year to year depending on which virus is dominate that particular year. Each year, scientists work with different vaccine manufacturers to predict the most dangerous flu related virus that will be present within the next year, based on an international surveillance. From there, a strain of the vaccine will produced that is unique for the coming year. However, the vaccine cannot be one hundred percent effective because it is still mostly a guessing game as to which virus will be dominate. In fact, the effectiveness of the flu guarding against the symptoms of flu are only about 59 percent in people between the ages of 18-65.

All over the country, people are starting to doubt the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine, and are starting to deny the shot for themselves and their families. Some would rather deal with the flu symptoms than risk the side effects of the vaccine. Some think the media has built up the shot to be scarier then it really is, and some think it’s not built up enough and that more people need to know the risks.  Every family must make the personal choice to get the vaccine or not to based on their own beliefs.

So what does this mean for the North East Kingdom and Vermont? Last year, Nicole and Justin Matten of Barton dealt with grief, anger, and confusion, when their 7-year-old daughter, Kaylynne died suddenly from still unexplained causes.  Kaylynne visited her physician for an annual checkup on December 2d and got the flu vaccine. On December 6th, after becoming very ill and unresponsive to any medication, died in her mothers arms. Kaylynne’s parents are convinced that it was the flu vaccine that killed their sweet, fun loving, and seemingly healthy girl.

When state officials came back with their toxicology report, it failed to confirm the cause of Kaylynne’s death. Harry Chen, Vermont Health Commissioner, held his position from the beginning that Kaylynne’s death was more then likely not from the flu vaccine because that kind of thing is ‘extremely rare’. He went on to state that there has never been a death as a result of the vaccine in the state of Vermont.

Some critics question the Vermont Health Commission and weather they tested all three viruses during the making of the report. Some believe it wasn't the virus it’s self that caused this tragedy, but another virus that she may not have been protected from that took over during the flu shot waiting period, when her immune system was lowered.  Her parents just want an answer, and want to believe the vaccine is safe. Harry Chen says they may never have an explanation.

Rebecca Agone, Chronic Care Coordinator at St. Johnsbury Family Health and Caledonia Internal Medicine says there is no need for concern. “There is no evidence to show that it [the vaccine] weakens your immune system, in fact it’s very good for people with weakened immune systems to take it in order to protect them. There is no evidence that any of the three types of viruses that go into the vaccine cause the flu.”

Rebecca went on to explain that the flu vaccine is safe and healthy for most, except for people that have an egg allergy or any severe allergies because vaccines and usually egg based and can make the patient sicker. She suggested anybody with that type of allergy to talk to their doctor or care provider before getting the vaccine.

If you decide not to get vaccinated the best thing to do to prevent the symptoms of the flu is wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Make sure your kids cough in their sleeve and use tissues. Use precaution in order to prevent the spreading of germs and viruses.

After the doubts many have, some doctors are nervous people will be turned off to the vaccine all together. Most health care providers still recommend the flu shot for almost everyone over the age of 6 months. They encourage everyone to make their own educated decision on whether or not to vaccinate themselves and their family members.