The Real Value of Flu Shots - Updated 2013

It's that time of year again. We recently had our flu vaccinations at the office. Have you had yours? Are you concerned about getting the vaccine? To add to our information below I'm including a link to an article on Gizmodo that talks about 25 myths of the flu vaccine.

2013 Update: Gizmodo posted 25 myths of getting the flu vaccine.

Three of the myths I hear most often that Gizmodo tackles are:
Myth #1: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick.
Myth #2: The flu shot contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze.
Myth #6: Flu vaccines don’t work.

Every year we provide voluntary flu shots for the company. We feel like if we can keep one person from getting the flu, then it was a success.

There are those who disagree with the value of flu shots. I've met people who swear they have actually gotten the flu after receiving a flu shot. In addition, there is a Dr. Robert Rowen who states that:

  1. flu shots contain mercury
  2. 97.3% of adults don't even need flu shots because research shows only about 2.7% of adults get the flu (is this per year?)

Ok, so now I'm curious and I have decided to do some research on my own (especially since the doctor who quotes the research provides no links to said studies).

As a general practitioner and the owner of a hospice company in Fort Worth my brother, Dr. Brian Byrd, deals with the elderly and sick a lot.

So, what is his take on flu shots?

"It probably won't help you individually, since you most likely won't get the flu. The example I use is this: If 3,000 people in a community are vaccinated vs. 3,000 who aren't, at the end of the flu season, there are a lot more flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the non-vaccinated group."

Ok, so I take the flu shot for the communal effect, not personal effect. I'm ok with that. But others aren't.

Can you get the flu from a flu vaccine?

"About 5% of people who get the flu shot feel crummy after. The vaccine uses a killed virus, so it's impossible to get the flu from the vaccine. It is a foreign substance, so it might make you feel like you are sick."

What are his thoughts on the 97.3% study?

97.3% is a mild season.

Other thoughts?

"Vaccinations have eliminated polio and smallpox. If we had stopped vaccinations back then, we would still be living with the threat of those as well as flu. It's a process. I just treated a one year old who had a bad case of whooping cough. His parents would not vaccinate him. Now, he will probably have a lifetime of asthma as a result."

Thank you Dr. Byrd.

Here are some other things I found:

Some (not all) flu shots contain thimerosal. Thimerosal is a preservative containing ethyl mercury. So far I have not been able to find anything concrete regarding the toxicity or safety of using thimerosal as a preservative in flu vaccines since 1999. Most of the articles I found related to multiple vaccines in infants can be dangerous because the amount of ethyl mercury can accumulate in children who have difficulty metabolizing the ethyl mercury. I have yet to find any studies/articles pertaining to ethyl mercury and danger to adults.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/09/26/flu-vaccine-exposed.aspx

The CDC states that "on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related conditions." These numbers contradict Robert Rowan's numbers of 2.7%. I guess he is going off a mild season.

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/disease.htm

This is from the American Lung Association:

"The flu shot. The viruses in the flu shot are inactivated, which means that someone receiving the vaccine cannot get influenza from the flu shot. The exposure to the inactivated influenza virus helps our bodies develop protection by producing antibodies. The amount of antibodies in the body is greatest one to two months after vaccination and then gradually decline. After receiving the flu shot it usually takes about two weeks for the body to develop immunity to influenza."

http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/influenza/preventing-influenza.html

So, will we still be giving out voluntary flu shots this year? Absolutely. Do you have to receive one as an employee here? Absolutely not. You are a free American and can chose. Thank you to the men and women who have died to give us that freedom.

Do you get a flu shot each year? Do you believe in vaccinations for adults? What about for children?

Why Adults Can Learn Languages More Easily Than Children

Speaking a second language is a great way to broaden your communication abilities. But many people assume that learning a second language is something they should have tackled as a child, that it becomes too difficult as they grow older. In actuality, children don't necessarily learn languages more easily than adults. Rather, there are certain parts of the language-learning process that are easier as children, while other parts are easier as adults.

When children are young, their brains are in the process of developing. They are malleable and spongelike, always changing and soaking up information. For this reason, learning a first or second language takes place without conscious thought. For children it's more like second nature. A study conducted by Dr. Paul Thompson at UCLA, for example, found that children use a part of their brains called the "deep motor area" to acquire new languages. This area of the brain is activated when you're walking, tying your shoe, or taking a sip of water; it controls unconscious actions. The fact that this same portion of the brain is employed by children when learning languages lead Thompson to conclude that language acquisition is a natural process, something that is second nature, something that a child doesn't have to actively think about. Adults, on the other hand, must think actively about learning a second language. For them it is not second nature, but an intellectual process. This is because an adult's brain has already formed--the circuitry and synapses have been wired to fit the parameters and pronunciations of their first language. Luckily, as an adult, you've already developed the capacity for intellectual learning.

Since adults are capable of grappling with language on an intellectual level, they are actually better suited for becoming proficient in a language more quickly than children. Often we think it's the other way around. We may, for example, observe a child saying a couple of phrases in two languages and conclude that he or she is bilingual. But David P. Ausubel, a linguist at the University of Illinois, points out that children have small vocabularies and use simple constructions to communicate their needs. Adults, on the other hand, communicate in much more complex ways and command very large vocabularies. This gives people the false assumption that children learn a language more quickly. In actuality, adults simply have more to learn to communicate on the same level that they communicate at in their first languages. Moreover, according to Ausubel, adults and adolescents are able to generalize and think in abstract terms. A child needs to hear a phrase time and time again to distinguish a recurring pattern. This type of discovery takes a lot of time and a lot of exposure. Adults can hear a phrase once and understand that that phrase can be universalized across the entire language. The same goes for grammatical patterns: an adult is more likely to realize that many of their first-language's patterns can be applied to the second language, whereas a child's brain has not developed the maturity to think in such abstractions and is therefore unable to make the same connections.

Aware of the differences in language-acquisition processes and aptitudes, experts have realized that teaching methods ought to differ, too. In order to teach a child a second language it is important to expose them to both languages at school and at home. Full immersion will help a child pick up on patterns more readily. Also, using mnemonic techniques like singing songs or having repetitive drills will help wire the new language and its pronunciations into a child's brain. Older language learners often get hung up on pronunciation but learn to understand the grammatical and syntactical patterns more easily. Therefore, adults should concentrate on getting the grammatical fundamentals down so as not to get discouraged by pronunciation difficulties. Once the grammar is down, the difficult specter of correct pronunciation can be slowly chiseled away at and refined over time.