The story

Nobody wants to get the flu this year. The dreaded, head-pounding, body-aching, feverish, nauseating, cough-fest packs equal parts misery and inconvenience.

But nobody wants to get a shot that might be unnecessary or ineffective, either. So, while some experts worry aloud about a 1918-like flu pandemic, most of us -- well aware of the risks of getting the virus, from being sneezed on at the office to living with a toddler -- are not lining up to get the shot. In fact, only a third of us even bother.

The truth is, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and most mainstream docs are pushing the flu vaccine, the latest science suggests it just doesn't work very well. So, should you or shouldn't you? Here, the answers to your flu-shot questions.

How effective is the shot? The flu shot is only as good as the educated guesses of a group of vaccine researchers across the globe. Every February, they try to predict which flu viruses will work their evil during the next fall and winter. Their three top choices are put into the vaccine. The CDC claims that vaccine will be 70 to 90 percent effective against just those strains of flu.

"We hope that these smart scientists who get together with the vaccine producers make the right call," says immunologist Dr. Randy Horwitz, medical director of the University of Arizona's School for Integrative Medicine. But sometimes they don't, partly because the virus mutates from year to year. In 2003-2004, the CDC admitted that it completely missed the virulent Fujian flu strain that hit hard that winter. Read full article »

All About InfluenzaContagious and Infectious DiseasesVaccines

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