Although the first effective influenza vaccines were developed in the 1940s and used during World War II, the “flu shot” has only been available for mass public use since the 1960s. Unlike other vaccines, the flu shot must change on a yearly basis in order to keep pace with the speedy evolution of new viral strains. Each annual vaccine protects against as many as three or four different strains. Because the flu shot differs each year, it must also be promoted and administered annually. “Flu vaccine rhetoric” refers to the use of persuasion and strategic communication by public health agencies to promote the vaccine and educate the public about influenza.

Contemporary public health campaigns emphasize the necessity of the flu shot in order to elevate herd ...

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