If you’ve already had your flu shot this season, you’re excused from reading this article today. Go pour yourself another cup of coffee and read the rest of the newspaper, and go ahead, feel smug knowing that all those antigens are running through your veins.
Now, for the rest of you, it’s my duty to remind you that flu season will be here quicker than Christmas displays at Walmart and, although hard to believe, it will be around a lot longer. So, it’s time to stop down at your local pharmacy, or at your healthcare provider to get your flu shot.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months old and older get vaccinated against influenza. The only exceptions are those who have an allergy to any of the ingredients in the shot, anyone who’s had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or if you are ill (a slight cold may not be an issue, but check with your primary care provider first).
“Flu is serious. Flu is unpredictable. Flu often gets not enough respect,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden warned. “If we could increase vaccination coverage in this country by just five percent, that would prevent about 800,000 illnesses and nearly 10,000 hospitalizations.”
And, according to the CDC, healthcare professionals aren’t just paying lip service to their recommendations; last year 79 percent of those in the healthcare industry got their flu shots with physicians heading the list at close to 96 percent of them getting vaccinated.
There’s a lot written about those under the age of five and over the age of 65 as being at high risk of serious complications if they get the flu. And, not to minimize those risks, it’s important to note that everyone in-between those ages can not only get very sick themselves, but can spread the disease to those younger and older. In other words, we all need to be vaccinated.
“Vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting vaccinated also protects the developing baby during pregnancy and for several months after the baby is born,” CDC says. “A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness in pregnant women found that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection by about one half.”
The CDC also says that the flu vaccine is an effective tool for people with chronic health conditions, and is associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease.
“Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79 percent) and chronic lung disease (52 percent)” CDC explains.
Why should you get the shot? Start with the fact that it can keep you from getting sick from the flu. No more needs to be said about that, then think about this:
“Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions,” the CDC advises.
Plus, bearing in mind that viruses are constantly changing and we’re dependent on research, if you do get sick, your illness most likely will be much milder and your recovery much quicker.
The take-away here is don’t delay. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work and the start of flu season is unpredictable.
“A vaccination deferred is often a vaccination forgotten,” Frieden added. “And we want to ensure as many people as possible get the flu vaccine.”
I got mine about a week ago and will admit to a little soreness at the injection site, but it went away and I’m feeling fine and a little smug. So, now it’s your turn. How about today?
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.