When we hear about the outbreak of other dangerous diseases, such as the recent Ebola crisis, we are far more fearful than we ever are about the annual threat to our health from flu. And yet, influenza is one of the top 10 killers in the United States. It is estimated that around 60% of adults don’t bother getting flu shots despite the fact that if more of us were vaccinated we would all be in a stronger position to minimize the spread of the virus.
#1 Protection for You and Those around You
Some of the arguments against getting the flu vaccine run along the lines of the vaccine not being totally effective, so what’s the point?
The point is that, as Dr Joseph Bresee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told CBS News, the flu vaccine is, “especially important in people at high risk for severe disease”, and provides some protection even if it is not 100% effective in all cases.
#2 High-Risk Groups
Children are particularly at risk from influenza, with an average of 20,000 kids under the age of five being hospitalized each year due to infection. Other high-risk groups include:
Adults over 65
Nursing home residents
And anyone who has certain medical conditions which may include:
Chronic lung disease
Kidney or liver disorders
Morbidly obese people
Anyone with a weakened immune system
Those with blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease)
That doesn’t mean you should ignore the possibility that you will get flu this winter if you don’t fall into one of those groups, as those are just the particularly high-risk groups of people. Anyone–and almost everyone–is vulnerable to influenza, which is a virus which spreads quickly and easily.
#3 Protect Children
The CDC recommends that all children over the age of six months be immunized against influenza, as their developing immune systems make them particularly vulnerable.
Severe complications caused by the flu are especially common in children under two. Those with chronic health problems such as brain or nervous system disorders, diabetes or asthma are particularly at risk. According to the CDC website there were more than 140 related pediatric deaths during the last flu season.
The best way to protect your children is to have them vaccinated every year once they are over 6 months old. Up to 8 years of age, children need two doses if they are being vaccinated for the first time. Healthcare providers can advise you about this. The first dose serves to prime the child’s immune system, with the second dose actually providing the protection from the virus. It’s important to get both doses of the vaccine otherwise there may be no protection, and there should be 28 days between the first and second doses.
#4 Flu Vaccine Benefits
Getting vaccinated offers a range of benefits, but the most important of these are:
Unborn babies are protected along with their mothers
Protection for unborn babies continues six months after they are born
Reduced chances of needing time off work, so your income won’t suffer
Less chance of you landing in hospital if you do become ill
The more people who take the vaccine, the less chance of flu epidemics taking hold in neighborhoods
Helps prevent complications in people with chronic health conditions
#5 The Flu Vaccine Won’t Make You Ill
It’s a common misconception that flu immunizations give you the disease they are designed to prevent, and so make you ill. The virus contained within the vaccine is weakened or inactivated and will not actually give you the flu.
When to Get the Flu Shot This Year
The Flu vaccine is available for everyone at multiple healthcare outlets. The wide availability of the vaccine means there’s very little chance you’ll have to wait in line for long.
It’s also very affordable. Insurers are now required to cover preventative healthcare such as flu shots, although you need to check which providers fall within the network. Even if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost, it’s not that expensive when compared to your health or that of your child, or the cost of treating a dose of the flu.
It takes a couple of weeks to build up your immunity after vaccination, so it’s important to get the shot as early as possible in the season as soon as the current vaccine becomes available.