Think you don’t need a flu shot because you’re not in a high-risk group? Or feel that ingredients in the vaccine may be unsafe? You should head over to Scientific American’s Observations blog, which includes the response of experts from the European Scientific Working Group on Influenza to these and other common misperceptions about the flu and flu shot. About safety concerns, blogger Katherine Harmon reports:
In pure scientific logic, as [Betty Voordouw, of the Medicines Evaluation Board in the Netherlands] pointed out, “you can never say that anything is safe.” Adjuvants, which boost the immune response and thereby require less of the virus is required, have been controversial in the U.S., but not so much in Europe and beyond. Even with adjuvants, which also act as a preservative, “I think the benefits of adding an adjuvant to an influenza vaccine will far outweigh the risks,” she said.
It can be tough to accept an option that carries any risk at all, [Bruno Lina, MD, PhD, of the University of Lyon] said, especially in the U.S. where the public seems insistent at times on zero risk. That sort of logic, he notes, from a public health standpoint “is stupid behavior — because you’re dealing with disease, and you have to weigh the benefits and the risks.” And, he acknowledges, that can be a difficult exercise for people unaccustomed to very consciously accepting small amounts of risk for a much larger benefit — both to themselves and the people around them.