The Reason Why I Refuse To Get The Flu Vaccine

by Kalysta

The usual problem with the flu isn’t random mutations (those happen, but they’re not terribly common), it’s that the flu virus, when it meets another flu virus, loves to swap DNA with each other.

The influenza virus has several different protein receptors on its surface that allows it better affinity for its main host species – these being humans, pigs and birds. These proteins are called Hemagglutinin (or H) and Neuraminidase (or N). There are currently 16 different known hemagglutinin molecules and 9 Neuraminidase ones. Any random flu virus on the street will have 1 type of H protein, and 1 type of N protein (ex: H7N1 or H13N9), and these molecules are often the target for vaccines to develop antibodies against. However, there is very little cross protection between subtypes – a vaccine against H1 won’t work well if you get infected with an H7.

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What often happens with flu viruses, however, is that two different viruses infect the same person, bird or pig (and this often happens in Asia where they still have open air markets containing live birds and pigs – it’s a great way to let multiple flu viruses infect the same host). When 2 or more flu viruses enter the same cell, what they often do is swap DNA, and therefore swap protein types. So say a chicken in china gets infected with an H3N1 virus, and the pig in the stand next to it has an H7N2. Since this is airborne, the pig sneezes in the bird’s direction, the bird now picks up the H7N2 virus as well, they recombine in the bird’s cells, and now you suddenly have a highly pathogenic H7N1 (IE High Path Bird Flu) running rampant through China. And thanks to the global food trade, it quickly makes its way over here. And every time this virus recombines, there’s a chance it’ll suddenly become more adapted to other hosts – which is how bird flu ends up killing thousands of people, and how there is now such a thing as horse flu (H7N7 or H3N8) and dog flu (also H3N8, first showed up in racing greyhounds, and likely hopped to them from horses racing at the same track).

Vaccine manufacturers know that the different virus types they vaccinate against don’t cross protect in people well, so what they do is take CDC and WHO data and try to guess what 3 flu types will be the most common each year. Sometimes they’re right and the vaccine works. Often they’re dead wrong, because the flu is so damn good at recombining it’s DNA and making itself more potent.

So that’s why the flu vaccine fails so often. And that’s why I choose not to get the vaccine. Why get stuck with a shot that only has a chance of keeping me from getting sick every single year?

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