Last updated: March 17. 2013 2:52AM - 254 Views

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W ITH A NASTY flu season now upon us, let's talk cause and effect. As in, just because you or someone you know got sick right after getting a flu shot doesn't mean the illness was an effect of the shot.

It's like the old example of ice cream and crime: Crime increases in the summer. Ice cream sales increase in the summer. Therefore, ice cream causes crime. It's utter nonsense of course, and that's the point. Linking ice cream and crime shows how misguided it is to automatically assume if two things happen to coincide, one must be the result of the other.

So again, just because someone got sick right after getting a shot doesn't mean the shot caused the sickness. They also got sick after having a meal or two that day, after running some errands, after sitting in a car, after watching TV, or after any number of other activities. Yet no one blames any of those other events for the illness, even though they, like the shot, immediately preceded the symptoms.

Odds are actually good they were infected days earlier – remember that most bad germs need a few days or weeks in your system to incubate, to multiply into numbers sufficient to cause symptoms. Odds are also good that if you asked a few questions, you'd find the person who blames an ailment on the flu vaccine was recently exposed to someone who was sick and much more likely to have been the cause of the illness.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – as well as countless physicians and medical experts – point out annually, the flu vaccine is comprised of dead virus strains. They can't make you sick because they are inert. They provoke your body into building up antibodies, but that takes a week or two, so you are still susceptible immediately after the shot.

As the CDC also points out annually, the vaccine is a bit of a scientifically calculated gamble, designed to protect you against three varieties of influenza expected to be most prevalent that particular year. Even after it takes full effect, you are not directly protected against other strains. The fact that your body has built up its defenses, however, increases the odds you will fight off any strain.

So if you decided not to get a shot because you're convinced it makes people sick, please reconsider. As an article in The Times Leader Friday noted, the flu season has hit our area – and our nation – hard and early. If you have access to the Internet, the CDC has a flu vaccine locater on its flu website, http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm. It's as easy as typing in your ZIP code.

If you are using cause and effect to decide whether or not you should get a flu shot, consider this connection, well proven since the advent of modern vaccination technology:

The fewer people vaccinated, the more prevalent a disease.

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