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Why I’ll Never Get My Kids the Flu Shot

Photograph by Twenty20

As someone who tries to live as naturally as possible, I’ve made the controversial decision not to get the flu shot for my three children. I understand that having the vaccine is the right choice for many and that it can be effective in avoiding flu or minimizing the symptoms, but after weighing up the evidence, I’ve decided against it.

One of the reasons I felt able to make that choice is that the vaccination is only partially effective and so the flu is freely circulating anyway, regardless of whether people get the shot. The CDC say that in the 2017/18 season it was effective only 36 percent of the time. The same year in Australia, the figure was as low as 10 percent.

There are side effects and risks associated with having the vaccine and the U.S. National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) say that the flu shot is the most compensated vaccine on their list. This means that of all the vaccines available, the flu shot is the one that they have had to pay the most for (to those who dealt with adverse reactions to the vaccine).

Studies also show a higher risk of hospitalization from other illnesses for those who have had the shot, as well as an increased risk from the H1N1 strain in vaccinated individuals.

When I admit to other parents that my kids haven’t had the flu shot, they often feel the need to criticize. Those who have chosen to have their children vaccinated can be opinionated and judgmental about my decision, attacking me for my failure to do something that they believe in — even if I don’t.

My best guess at the reason for this is that they know there is some risk to their kids and aren’t particularly happy that others aren’t sharing it. My reply is that it’s my choice. Even if I did go ahead with the vaccination, flu would still spread because the shot is only partially effective.

Media coverage exerts a huge amount of pressure. There are dozens of articles extolling the virtues of the flu shot, glossing over potential problems and ignoring the fact that some people simply don’t want their children injected with a cocktail that can include emulsifiers, stabilizers, antibiotics, preservatives and formaldehyde.

A flu shot might be right for some families, but it's not for everyone.

I try to raise my kids holistically with as natural a diet and lifestyle as possible. Injecting a healthy child with something that has the potential to make them unwell feels personally counterintuitive.

I would never ask someone to make a choice for their children that they believe is wrong for them or potentially harmful. I’m simply asking for other parents to do the same for me.

Accusations of selfishness are unwarranted. The flu shot does not always prevent flu. The virus spreads anyway, and there is no herd immunity when it comes to flu. Even if everyone was vaccinated, the virus would still spread.

I like to believe I have an open mind; if I was persuaded that the vaccine was safe or if it became more effective, I’d definitely reconsider my decision.

It’s also true that if my children were particularly vulnerable to complications from flu — for example, if they had diabetes, asthma or long-term health problems — then I’d be more likely to have them vaccinated.

A flu shot might be right for some families, but it's not for everyone. There's no easy answer: no clear right and no clear wrong. But the one thing I do know for sure is that all parents should be allowed to choose what they feel is best for their family. If the evidence isn’t compelling enough for someone, they should be allowed to opt out without fear of criticism or being ostracized.

After all, at the end of the day, we're all trying to do the best we can for our kids.

Disclaimer: This is one mom's opinion, not professional medical advice.

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