By Joanna Manero
National Influenza Vaccination Week December 4-10. It is truly a privilege to be alive in a time when we have vaccines that can prevent a number of illnesses. Most vaccines provide antibodies for our body to fight off diseases that are effective for a number of years, or even a lifetime. However, the flu shot is one that we should renew annually. In fact, the CDC recommends that U.S. healthcare workers get vaccinated every year. During the 2014-2015 season, 75% of healthcare workers received the flu vaccination. Although this number is higher than past years, it is lower than the target of 90% set by the Healthy People 2020. Annual renewal is recommended because the viruses responsible for the flu are different each year. The vaccine is designed to protect against three or four viruses that research indicates will be the likely cause of the flu that particular year.
The decision of which viruses to protect from each year is one that is not taken lightly. The World Health Organization (WHO) collaborates with essential regulatory laboratories and representatives of key national laboratories and academies from all over the world to review the results of clinical, laboratory, and surveillance studies. The WHO then recommends which viruses are likely problematic for the next season. The final decision of inclusion is taken by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Vaccination is recommended as soon as it becomes available for the season, preferably by October. Immunity takes about two weeks, so early vaccination is encouraged. However, it is not too late to get your flu shot if you haven’t already. The flu can start as early as October but the peak season isn’t until January, or sometimes even later.
So why may some people choose to go without the vaccine? Several widespread myths surround the vaccine. Some common myths are:
- You can catch the flu from the vaccine- This is probably the most common myth. The flu shot contains inactivated viruses that cannot transmit infection. Immunity takes two weeks to set, and people may catch the flu during the two-week period following the vaccine. However, the vaccine is not the source of the flu.
- The flu is just a bad cold- Although the flu may give you cold-like symptoms, it can be more deadly. In the United States, 36,000 people die from the flu, and 200,000 are hospitalized each year from the flu.
- You don’t need a flu shot every year- As stated above, different viruses are responsible for the flu each year. Yearly vaccination is essential.
- Healthy people don’t need the vaccine- Although vaccination is heavily encouraged for people with chronic illness or who are frail, healthy people can see benefits from routine vaccination.
What are other myths that you have heard against getting a yearly flu shot? Leave us a comment, and we can attempt to debunk them!
Although Flu prevention is the main reason people choose to receive the vaccine, it is not the only benefit.
- Vaccination reduces flu-associated hospitalization for children and older, people with type 2 diabetes, and chronic lung disease
- Vaccination was associated with less cardiac events in people with heart disease, or other cardiac conditions within the last year.
- Vaccination is also important for the protection of pregnant women and the developing baby. Immunity is passed to the newborn for the first several months of life.
- Vaccination can also reduce your symptoms if you get ill, giving you a milder illness. And finally
- Vaccination creates protection not only for you but those around you.
With all of these incredible benefits and the widespread availability of the Influenza Vaccination, there is no excuse to skip a year. Make sure you get vaccinated if you haven’t, and encourage others to do the same!
How do you help your friends and family to get the flu shot?
No flu shot yourself yet? What is your excuse?
This was posted by Robin Allen, a member of OneOp (MFLN) Nutrition and Wellness team that aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the OneOp Nutrition and Wellness concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, and LinkedIn.