Why are people so scared of flu shots

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Many people view the flu shot with indifference or fear. If you think, I never get the flu, so I don’t need the shot, or believe that the shot itself will actually make you sick, you’re not alone. But at the same time, it seems strange that we’d be so resistant to a vaccine that can stop us from getting sick—I mean, if someone invented a shot that eliminated mildly annoying headaches, I’d be first in line. So why would we rather risk contracting a miserable and dangerous illness than take a shot that many doctors practically give away?
Though “Get Your Flu Shot Today” posters have only been bombarding us for about the last ten years, flu shots have actually been around since 1942. Jonas Salk first cut his teeth inventing the flu vaccine, before he became inoculation-famous with his polio vaccine in 1952. But the flu shot, which in its early incarnation was used primarily on WWII soldiers, didn’t work that often.
Of course, it doesn’t always work today, but it was really problematic then: Every year, the vaccine protects against the strains of influenza virus that are included in the vaccine, but the flu is a tricky little scamp. The strains that make us sick every year don’t stay the same. So the WHO has to make an educated guess about which strains are most likely to be prominent that year. Though the WHO collects year-round flu surveillance from over 100 sites around the world, they still have to make the vaccine in advance of the actual flu season.
Theirs is an incredibly thorough process, and often they use the data available to pick the right strains, stopping scores of people from dealing with this seasonal illness. But the WHO ain’t Nostradamus, and they can’t always predict ahead of time which strains will strike. When they guess wrong, the flu shot is much less effective.
In 1976, a scary-looking swine flu popped up, and the Center for Disease Control feared we’d be struck by another flu pandemic, like the 1918 one that killed some 50 million people. So the U.S. government rushed out a mass inoculation campaign. But the swine flu epidemic never happened, and instead, 450 people contracted Guillain-Barre syndrome after receiving the shot. Combine the fear about swine flu spread by the government, the non arrival of the flu pandemic, and a spike in a rare neurological disorder, and it’s no wonder people were hesitant to get a flu vaccine.
Of course, the number of people who contracted Guillain-Barre was a tiny percentage of overall flu shot recipients, and nowadays, the CDC insists that there’s no tie between the vaccine and the disorder. Still, it didn’t instill a lot of confidence.

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