Flu shot controversy: The danger vs. the benefit - ABC FOX Montana Local News, Weather, Sports KTMF | KWYB

Flu shot controversy: The danger vs. the benefit

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Flu shots will likely save thousands of lives this year.

They may also permanently paralyze people.

It’s a paradox that plays out every flu season, the need to vaccinate the masses at the expense of a few who will unexpectedly suffer irreparable injury from a bad reaction to the vaccine.

Lt Col. Tim Gardipee served 32 years in the army, in 20 countries and in five war zones.

"I had a busy life,” he says. “I had a business.  I was teaching soldiers.  I had a family.  I had lots."

But lots have changed since then.

"Being completely paralyzed from the neck down was quite a shock.  A startling shock.  Yes sir," says Gardipee.

It wasn't an IED or a bullet that took Lt. Col. Gardipee’s ability to walk.  It was a different kind of shot.

A standard flu shot that 123-million Americans get every year.

"you run a risk every time somebody sticks something in your body and challenges your immune system you can get a bad reaction," says Richard Gage.

Gage is one of the top vaccine injury attorneys in the country.  He says he's not anti-vaccine - - he has his own children vaccinated for measles, mumps, rubella and many other afflictions.  But not the flu.

"I see the bad reactions and what it does to people's lives and how it ruins people's lives," says Gage.

To put this into perspective the Centers for Disease Control estimates only one to two people per million doses gets a "severe reaction" from the flu shot - - anything from extreme fatigue to paralysis. That’s about 200 Americans every year.  It's enough for the industry to include paralysis as one of the risks on the package insert for the vaccine. 

Pam Whitney with the Missoula County Health Department says getting a flu shot isn't just for you, it's for those who can't get immunized.  It’s called herd immunity.  If most of us get immunized, the flu can't effectively spread to infants and others who can't get immunized.  You might think, I’d rather get the flu and not risk paralysis.  But Whitney says, “You'll be spreading it to the other people, who really can't protect themselves.  And it may kill an infant who gets Influenza."

And millions of American like Deputy Robert Parcell line up every year to get the flu shot without incident.

"It’s so rare,” says Parcell.  “And the chances of the flu causing you more problems are probably greater."

Lt. Col. Gardipee got the flu shot safely numerous times before he had a reaction. Medical professionals say there's no way of knowing who will have a reaction to the shot, but they stress that the risk is very low. If get the shot and get anything from fever to muscle pain to hives, you should notify your doctor.

Life may be harder now for Lt. Col Gardipee, but he says he still has a life.

"You are here for a purpose,” he says. “And my purpose is to teach others to carry on.  There’s rehab, there's a life worth living.

About 420 Americans file suit every year claiming they've been injured by flu shot. Patients win about half of those cases.  But their payout comes from taxes, not the pharmaceutical companies. The pharma companies can’t be sued.  Congress gave them immunity in 1986 setting up a special court after big pharma threatened to stop making vaccines because they were getting sued for vaccine injuries and they say, losing too much money.

We should stress, to put the odds of having a severe reaction to a flu shot into perspective, they are the same as being struck by lightning.

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