Millions of people get a flu vaccine in the fall as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Medical Association and other professional medical groups. But many people don’t, believing it doesn’t work or will make them sick.
If you’re thinking about skipping a flu shot this season, David Weisman, DO, medical director of the Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital, encourages you to reconsider. Here are five reasons why:
- Not only can the flu vaccine keep you from getting the flu, it may make your illness milder if you do get sick.
- Getting vaccinated benefits everyone around you. “The flu virus spreads easily— you can contract it when an infected person coughs, talks or sneezes. You can also get the flu by touching something that has the virus germs on it, then touching your eyes, nose or mouth,” notes Dr. Weisman.
- Some people are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from the flu, like pregnant women, older adults and people with chronic health conditions. If you fall into one of these categories, the vaccine can help protect you. “Flu symptoms can lead to dehydration, the worsening of chronic illnesses, bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, and in severe cases, death,” says Dr. Weisman. “Every year, about 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu.” The CDC estimates that flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from about 3,000 to 49,000 annually between 1976 and 2006.
- The flu shot is safe and it can’t give you the flu. The flu vaccine is formulated from dead or inactive viruses, so it can’t make you sick. If you do get sick, chances are you were exposed to the virus before getting the shot David Weisman, DO or you picked up a virus not included in the vaccine.
- Last year’s vaccination won’t protect you this year. “The flu is a virus that changes from year to year,” Dr. Weisman explains. “The vaccine is reformulated annually to protect against strains of the virus predicted by the CDC to be most widespread.”
Children ages 6 months or older and most adults should get vaccinated against the flu annually. Flu season usually starts in October and can last until May, so it is important to get vaccinated early. “Getting the shot is the single best way for nearly everyone to prevent the flu,” says Dr. Weisman.
The Good Health Center at MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital offers flu and pneumonia vaccines. Seasonal flu vaccines are $20 and pneumonia vaccines are $25 and are free for those with valid Medicare Part B cards. For details call 410-248-8322.