By Kathy Hubbard
For every reason you might have for not getting a flu shot, there’s a reason why you should. I’ll start with the fact that early estimates indicate that 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from the flu last season.
“Flu vaccination has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, and a growing body of evidence supports the fact that vaccination also reduces the risk of serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization and even death,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
The CDC recommends everyone age six months and over get a flu shot before the end of October. That’s just a week away, folks, and your excuse now will be that you don’t have the time. Well, flu season lasts several months and it’s actually never too late to get the vaccine. It’s just best to get it early as it takes two weeks for the antibodies to take over your body.
There are three vaccines available this year. Choose the one that’s age appropriate for you. It’s that simple. No need to make a decision.
One of the most common myths about flu shots is that they will cause you to get the flu. Wrong. Astonishingly a survey in Orlando, Florida found that more than half of parents with children under the age of 18 believe that their child can get the flu from the shot. Well, we’re a lot smarter in North Idaho, aren’t we?
“There are a few reasons why people might mistakenly think that the flu vaccine gives you the flu,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine says. “It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in, and people often get the vaccination during cold and flu season. It’s completely possible to pick up something either right before or right after you got your shot.
“If you get your flu vaccine on Monday and on Wednesday you start sneezing, you did not start to develop the flu from the vaccine. You likely picked up a cold somewhere, and this was a coincidence.”
To be honest, there can be side effects. They usually include redness, swelling and soreness at the injection site. “A small percent of individuals, around one to two percent, can get a fever that can last for 24 or rarely 48 hours,” Schaffner says. “That’s also not the flu. It’s your body responding to the vaccine and starting to make protection.”
The only people who should not get a flu shot are children under six months old and people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
“This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients,” the CDC says. So, what about eggs? It’s commonly thought that those with an allergy to eggs shouldn’t be vaccinated.
“Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg should receive flu vaccine,” CDC says.
“Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis (vomiting); or who required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, may similarly receive any licensed and recommended flu vaccine that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status,” CDC says with the caveat that the vaccine should be administered by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage an allergic reaction, aka your primary care provider.
So, what’s your excuse now? Oh, I know, you never get sick so you don’t need it. Did you know that you can be a carrier for flu virus without having symptoms? That means that you can give someone else the flu, as in a baby under six months old. Who would want that on their conscience?
And the last excuse often heard is that you got a flu shot and still got the flu. Yes. That can happen. But, it’s most likely that your symptoms were much milder than those who’d not been vaccinated. A flu shot can prevent a trip to and stay in the hospital. How about it? Why not get your flu shot this afternoon.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.