Should you get an annual flu shot? The final decision is yours Rusney Castillo FlexBase Jersey , and should be made with your doctor. My purpose is to give you the behind the story facts. I'm not vehemently pro or anti vaccines. For the record, I've never gotten an annual flu shot and don't intend to. However, in recent years I have been vaccinated against both Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A. The most important misconception that's all too prevalent -- and the pro-vaccine media barrage promotes it -- is that vaccines "protect" you. Too many people falsely believe that the flu shot acts as a "pre" antibiotic that someone kills the flu virus before they're even infected with it. That'd be wrong even if flu viruses could be killed by antibiotics. Which they can't. Vaccines are teachers. Think of your immune system as an army protecting your body from invasions. Your army contains hundreds of millions of weapons (called antibodies). Every possible invader can be killed by one particular antibody. When you're invaded, though, it takes up to a week for your immune to learn which antibody works against that particular virus, bacteria or parasite. After that, however Rick Porcello FlexBase Jersey , your immune system works as hard as possible to manufacture much more of that antibody and use it against the invading infection. After the invasion is defeated, your army stores the information about the invader and the antibody into a special biological database (called memory B cells). So if that particular germ infects you again, your immune system can begin effectively fighting back right away. Vaccines are dead or weakened germs that the flu shot dumps upon the shores of your body for your immune system to find. Your immune system reacts to the threat by trying out antibodies just as though it were a full-scale invasion. After a time, it learns which antibodies to manufacture to defeat that particular strain of virus, and stores that information in the memory B cells. Therefore, if you're exposed to a live version of that virus during the coming flu season, your immune system can immediately meet the threat by rolling out the big gun antibodies. That's what vaccines do -- they train your immune system to defeat a particular virus by giving them a safe Pedro Martinez FlexBase Jersey , trial-run invasion. They don't do the actual fighting . . . that's up to your immune system. And that's an important point. Because the stronger your immune system is, the better it defends you, vaccine or no vaccine. A strong, well-equipped army (that is, a healthy immune system) is better able to fight off an infection than a weak, poorly-equipped army (an unhealthy immune system). Flu shots are most recommended for people who have weak immune systems: the very young, the very old Pablo Sandoval FlexBase Jersey , the very sick, HIV+, organ transplant recipients, cancer treatment patients and everyone who's otherwise immuno-compromised. The medical establishment believes that a weak army has more need for the training provided by the flu vaccine than a strong army, and this makes sense. No matter your age or health, you should also understand that a strong immune system is better than a weak one, and do all you can to boost your immune system through: Getting plenty of sleep Getting regular moderate exercise Eating healthy foods Taking immune system boosting nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C Nomar Garciaparra FlexBase Jersey , beta carotene, Vitamin E, zinc and selenium. The various strains of influenza viruses are monitored around the world by the World Health Organization (WHO) through the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other participating laboratories. Many hospitals and clinics send in samples from flu patients. Every year around February, influenza experts meet and use this information to make their best, informed guess about which three strains of influenza are most likely to circulate during the coming winter. They're experts, so they make scientific guesses, but they don't have a crystal ball. They can and have been wrong. Vaccine manufacturers then take six to eight months to manufacture vaccines against those three strains of influenza. For the upcoming 2007 flu season Mookie Betts FlexBase Jersey , the shot contains antigens (inactivated and live, attenuated viruses) for these three influenza strains: ANew Caledonia201999 (H1N1)-like, AWisconsin672005 (H3N2)-like and BMalaysia25062004. What if the strain of influenza that actually circulates this winter is not one of the above? You are still vulnerable to infection. So even if you get a flu shot, you should not stop practicing good hygiene. Don't get close to people sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands often. Viruses for these vaccines are grown in hen's eggs, so you should not take the flu vaccine if you have a history of severe hypersensitivity to eggs, such as anaphylaxis. According to the Center for Disease Control, "Manufacturers might use different compounds to inactivate influenza viruses and add antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination." As with all medical procedures Koji Uehara FlexBase Jersey , having a foreign substance injected into your bloodstream involves a certain degree of risk. The FDA and manufacturers guard against contamination, but it's been present in vaccines in the past. FluMist, which is inhaled, does avoid puncturing the skin. Three people recently died in Isreal following administration of flu shots. It's not yet known that the influenza vaccinations even caused or contributed to their deaths (they were old and in poor health anyway -- but those are precisely the people most recommended to get flu shots), or how. But this cases illustrates that despite all precautions, there is still some small risk. One of the big arguments vaccination opponents have made is the use of Thimerosal as a preservative in vaccines. Thimerosal is an organic compound that contains about 50% ethylmercury. According to the FDA's online tables dated September 5, 2005 Johnny Pesky FlexBase Jersey , Thimerosal is being phased out from vaccines. There're only tThere is .