Why it's important to get the flu shot this season

Posted at 7:03 AM, Nov 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-02 12:47:23-04

Not enough people take the flu seriously. We have a large group of people not getting a flu shot. 

I’m talking about those between 18 and 49 years of age. 

Only about one-third of them get vaccinated. Here’s the problem: If a large group of adults don’t get the flu vaccine, then we’re not establishing a herd immunity. And, we need this to protect those young and old and the ones who can’t get the vaccine because of severe, life-threatening allergies.   

Why is it that every year we need a flu shot? Deaths from the flu have ranged between 3,000 and 49,000 over the last 31 flu seasons. 

The flu viruses are constantly changing and the vaccines get updated to reflect the most common ones circulating. Getting a flu shot causes antibodies to develop in your body about two weeks later and this provides you with protection.

The science is mixed in regards to how long this immunity will last. There’s been studies that suggest vaccines lose some protectiveness during the course of the flu season.

Do flu shots reduce the risk of being hospitalized because of flu? Absolutely. Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations. 

A 2014 study showed the vaccine reduced this risk for children by 74% during the 2010-2012 flu seasons. 

Another study this summer found adults 50 years and older reduced their risk of getting hospitalized from flu by 57%.

The flu vaccine cannot cause flu illness. You may get side effects that are mild and short-lasting like soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. You may get a low grade fever and some body aches.
Partha’s Prescriptions for prevention of flu:

1. Wash your hands with soap and water.  Frequent handwashing is a great way to avoid the flu and other common infections.

2. If no soap and water is available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

3. Make sure to cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or the crook of your elbow. This can help avoid contaminating your hands with germs.

4. If you're sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks.  That will help lessen the chance of infecting others.

The nasal vaccine is not recommended as there are concerns about its effectiveness. Studies have showed that it was not effective as the flu shot during the past flu seasons.

Typical peak weeks of flu activity is January through March. But, influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October. So the CDC recommends you get vaccinated if possible by October. Since we’re not sure exactly how long a flu shot provides immunity, it’s best not to fall for the marketing ploys and get your flu shot too soon. 

But if August is the only time you can get it, then it’s better to get the shot then than not at all.