Not Another Flu Shot!

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Overview
Your brother is whining again. This time it’s about getting a flu shot. He says he got one last year and doesn’t need another one; he doesn’t get other vaccinations more than once, so why this one? He might have a good point. Your mom is arguing with him that he needs a new one and they have to protect Grandma and Grandpa from getting sick.  Who’s right? Should you and your brother get flu shots again?


Scenario

“I don’t want to get a flu shot!” You hearteen male looking mad your brother whining to your Mom and roll your eyes.  He wants to act so tough with his friends, but he is really such a baby sometimes.  Maybe you’ll mention his whining in front of his friends the next time he ticks you off.  He won’t like that!

“The flu season is supposed to be bad this year,” says your Mom. “They are predicting a particularly bad flu that can spread quickly.  I don’t want you kids getting so sick!  And what about Grandma and Grandpa? You know it’s much more serious for them if they get sick! You might pass it along to them!”

“I won’t pass anything along to them.  You made me get the flu shot last year, so I’m ok for this year. I don’t get shots every stupid year!” Your brother is really getting worked up now.

“I don’t think it works that way.  Some vaccines need more than one to work. Tetanus, for example.  You had to get more than one tetanus shot, remember? And why would the health department recommend that everyone get a shot if last year’s shot was still good?”

“Because they just want to make money, that’s why!” your brother sulks.

Now, you start to laugh at him. You can’t help it, and you know he’s going to get even madder if he sees you, but it’s not like you care about that.

“You both are going to the doctor for your sports physicals today. Now is a good time to ask the doctor about it,” your mom says.

You remember getting the flu shot last year. So many people were sick in your school and in your brother’s school that they closed schools in the county for a week to try to reduce the number of people getting sick. They suggested that people avoid large crowds and don’t go to the mall or the movies so that the flu didn’t spread as much. You also remember that they had recommended everyone get a flu shot.

You also remember being really glad you didn’t get that flu last year! Some of your friends still weren’t back to school even after schools opened back up! Your best friend, Katie, got the flu shot and still got the stomach flu.  She was pretty sick with it!

But your brother has a point.  Why should you have to get another one if you already got one? You only get one vaccine for measles and for other diseases.

Maybe your mom has this all wrong.

 Your Task

Find out who is right about getting another flu shot this year.  Does your brother have a good point about already having the shot or is your mom right about getting another shot to protect you and also your Grandma and Grandpa?  Can they both be right? How do flu shots “work”?

Be able to explain your findings and your decision about who is right about this family argument.

Guiding questions:

  1. How do vaccines prevent disease?
  2. Your mom said that they have predicted a “particularly bad flu this year”. How can one flu be worse than another?
  3. Why would you need only one shot of a vaccine for one disease and multiple shots for other diseases? Why has your brother had more than one tetanus shot?
  4. Do you need a flu shot this year if you got one last year? Why or why not?
  5. If flu shots stop working, do other vaccines—like ones for polio or diphtheria—stop working, too?
  6. How do flu viruses change from year-to-year?
  7. How did Katie get the stomach flu last year if she had a flu shot?

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