Who Really Stands to Gain from Flu Shots

According to a Meta-analysis conducted by The Cochrane Library, Flu shots don’t do much for healthy adults. It takes about 71 inoculations to prevent just one case of flu.

Given the perpetual shortages of vaccine and dire warnings handed out every flu season, it seems it might not be worth the trouble. Just making the Flu vaccine in the first place is more art than science.

The problem is the sheer number of Influenza virus out there: over 200. You chances of exposure to most of these is small, so Flu shot developers take a guess each season which 10% of these you are likely to get. It’s those versions of the Flu that the shot protects you from, and that is why the effectiveness is marginal at best.

This is not a recommendation to skip out on Flu shots all together, the marginal gains are felt on the group level, this is known as “herd immunity”. In aggregate, that one case in 71 can save significant lives.

These studies only apply to healthy adults, the very old and very sick may need extra protection, and should follow the advice of their doctors.

The point is: Cochrane found no evidence that Flu shots reduced hospital visits or sick days taken, so don’t look at your Flu shot as some kind of protective Aegis.

Chances are the life you’re saving belongs to someone else.