UNC study reports flu shots less effective in overweight people

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It's that time of the year again: Noses are runny, people are coughing and the flu is being spread like mustard. To protect yourself, you head to the doctor or one of the various drug stores around the city to take a flu shot.

Not so fast. Your weight could determine how well the shot works, according to a story in today's Raleigh News & Observer. The report says a new University of North Carolina study has determined that overweight and obese people don't get the full effect of the vaccine.

"Basically what we're finding is that with increasing BMI (body mass index), from overweight to obese, the immune response to the vaccine is not as robust as it is for individuals who are at a healthy weight," said Melinda Beck, a professor and associate chairwoman of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and senior author of the study.

Ouch. The flu is not fun — especially these days when some people feel to threatened to not take time off from work because they are sick, according to a 2008 blog report from the AFL-CIO.

When workers took time off for illness or to care for a sick family member, one in six say they were fired, disciplined or threatened by their employer, according to a new national survey. Also, a new report finds the United States ranks at the bottom of 21 high-income nations in providing parental leave for workers.

The survey, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago, also found that 86 percent of those polled say employers should be required to provide paid sick leave, and more than 80 percent say paid sick leave should be a basic workplace right on par with the minimum wage, overtime laws and other workplace standards.

By the way, overweight or not, the UNC researchers still advise flu shots.

People who are overweight should continue to get the vaccinations, Beck said, because even a limited boost to the immune system may be enough to protect against flu. Also, the effects found in the study weren't universal to all the overweight participants.

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