Spread joy, not influenza, this holiday season!
New for the 2016-17 season: The most important change for this flu season is that only the injectable vaccine is available and recommended. That means everyone (over 6 months of age) gets a flu shot this year instead of nasal spray. A few other important things to note, flu vaccines have been updated to match the circulating viruses out there and recommendations for vaccination of people with egg allergies have changed. If you have an egg allergy here’s a link to more information, and of course always talk to your health care provider if you have questions!
Flu vaccine is safe: The vaccine is given to millions of people in the US and around the world every year. The strains may change from one year to the next but vaccines are always thoroughly tested and are safe.
The flu shot can’t give you the flu: It’s impossible to get the flu from the flu shot because the vaccine doesn’t contain live viruses. A small number of people experience side effects like achy muscles but this is simply the immune system responding to the vaccine and showing your body that the vaccine is working!
You need the vaccine every year: You won’t be protected from last years shot; there are always new strains of flu circulating. The composition of the flu vaccine is looked at each year and always updated to ensure the best chance of matching the flu viruses that are circulating.
Anyone can get the flu: One of the most common reasons for not getting vaccinated is “I’ve never had the flu before.” There’s no such thing as natural immunity to the flu; it’s best to get vaccinated each year.
Flu vaccine protects the community and you: It’s not just about protecting yourself, it’s also about protecting your colleagues, community, family, elderly, those immunocompromised and those too young to get the vaccine. Did you know that you can carry and pass on the virus to others without having any symptoms yourself?
Healthy diets won’t prevent flu: Your diet could help boost your immune system, but eating well and taking vitamins won’t protect you from flu. The best protection is the flu vaccine.
Pregnant women can and should be vaccinated: Pregnant women can get vaccinated at any stage of pregnancy. Having the vaccination while pregnant also helps protect your baby from flu over the first few months of life.
And the extra awesome super-duper bonus, drumroll please…. Flu vaccine is free and it’s very easy to get vaccinated: Your health insurance will pay for the full cost of the vaccine and you can get it by simply walking into most local pharmacies – no appointments, no copays, no excuses! Use the Vaccine Finder to locate a clinic or pharmacy near you. You can also connect with us through www.Parenthelp123.org or by calling the Family Health Hotline 1-800-322-2588 to find a free clinic near you!
It’s time to give the flu vaccine the respect it deserves
Recently, I was talking with my pro-vaccine friends who became parents not too long ago. They have an eight-month old baby and are following the CDC’s recommended childhood vaccination schedule. They consider themselves to be strong vaccine supporters and trust in the science of vaccination and the protection vaccines provide. You can find Facebook posts of their baby immediately following her vaccine doses. In the pictures she’s smiling with captions like: “I got fully vaccinated and this is how happy I am about it only 3 minutes later.” However, when I brought up the flu shot they were quick to dismiss it.
Why is the flu vaccine viewed differently from other vaccines?
If I’m perfectly honest, there was a time when I too thought of the flu vaccine as somehow inferior and less important than the other vaccines. Data shows that I am not alone. Even though the flu vaccine is nearly universally recommended for individuals over 6 months old, it has one of the lowest coverage rates when compared to other vaccines. Last year, less than half of those eligible received the vaccine. People often opt out of the flu vaccine due to some key misunderstandings, but below are the compelling facts for consideration.
Here are the facts about flu strains.
Unlike other viruses, the flu is constantly changing. Each year influenza experts predict which strains of the virus will be most common and develop a vaccine to protect against those strains. Some years these predictions are better than others. The good news is that even when the vaccine does not match with the circulating viruses as perfectly as we hope, some protection is still better than no protection. And more good news: early tests indicate that this year’s vaccine is a better match than last, which will make it more effective against preventing the flu.
The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu.
The vaccine is comprised of either dead or weakened virus strains (depending on which vaccine you receive) making your likelihood of contracting the flu from the vaccine impossible. The flu vaccine takes up to 2 weeks to provide protection, so get your shot early to maximize its benefit.
The flu can be miserable and dangerous even for healthy people.
I used to think I was tougher than the flu. My immune system is strong – I can handle the flu. Let’s assume I’m right and that I survive two weeks of muscle aches, chills, sweats, fevers and vomiting caused by the flu. Many aren’t so lucky and by hosting the flu virus, I could pass it to others when I’m infected but have no symptoms. The flu is most dangerous for those 65 and over and infants under two, as well as people with common health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and even pregnant women. Each year, thousands of hospitalizations and deaths are a result of the flu. By getting the vaccine, I not only protect myself from the dreadful symptoms but I also protect those around me who may be at a higher risk of suffering serious complications.
So get out there and get your flu shot! I may not have been able to persuade my friends but I’ll keep presenting them with the facts. The flu vaccine is available at pharmacies and doctor’s offices. I got mine and feel happy about not only protecting myself but relieved to be protecting vulnerable individuals in my community.
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(1) The Harris Poll; Pritish Tosh, M.D., infectious diseases physician and researcher, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
(2) “Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2013-2014 Influenza Season.” Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1314estimates.htm