What If You Really Don’t Want The Flu Shot?0

There is ample literature readily available recommending the influenza vaccine, but what happens when you brave the flu season without it? A study in the October issue of the Journal of Advanced Nursing describes some indigenous health practices used to prevent and treat the most talked-about seasonal virus.

The study from 2007 involved a total of 208 older people from China, Indonesia, Turkey, Korea, Greece, Canada, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Nigeria.  These individuals were divided into 14 vaccinated and 12 unvaccinated focus groups where they shared their experiences of influenza and influenza vaccination. The researchers concluded that behavioral beliefs generally determined vaccine preferences. Likelihood of susceptibility to influenza and severity of symptoms also weighed heavily on decision making, as did vaccine effectiveness and health care costs.

According to the study, people made the decision to be vaccinated if they:

  • Felt their health was vulnerable
  • Viewed flu as very contagious and dangerous
  • Had experienced no, or minimal, side effects from previous vaccinations
  • Had less severe symptoms if they contracted flu after having the vaccine.
  • Didn’t want to pass the virus onto other family members
  • Community peer pressure
  • Had easy access to the vaccine.
  • Received reminders that they should be vaccinated
  • Were able to afford the vaccine

People who did not have the flu vaccine said they:

  • Didn’t see themselves as vulnerable
  • Felt less convinced that the vaccine was effective
  • Felt that it was sufficient to take preventative measures, such as leading a healthy lifestyle, with a good diet and good hand hygiene
  • Were more likely to trust indigenous health practices such as those addressed below

For those who passed on the vaccine, these indigenous practices in the nine countries included:

Canada Eating garlic
South Korea Bathing, take oriental herbal medicine or ginseng tea, eating steamed pear
United Kingdom Drinking hot lemon
Turkey Drinking herbal tea (linden flower and sage tea, mint and lemon mixture) and chicken soup
Greece Eating cheese, yoghurt and honey, taking herbs
Brazil Herbal tea, mint tea, aromatic herbs, guaco tea with lemon
Nigeria Drinking and bathing with boiled herbal mixture of lemon grass, egbu leaves, lime leaves and roots, ‘achara’ tea, ‘Uza aki’, ‘nchu anwu’
China Steaming vinegar and herbs, eating Chinese nourishing soup, massage and eating garlic
Indonesia Use of jamu (Javanese herbal medicine), going to a masseur, drinking warm ginger, doing ‘Kerokan’ (chafing someone with a coin as a medical treatment)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the United States an estimated 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.



Enid Wai-yung Kwong, Samantha Mei-che Pang, Pin-pin Choi, Thomas Kok-shing Wong. Influenza vaccine preference and uptake among older people in nine countriesJournal of Advanced Nursing, 2010

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