As the chill of fall settles in the air throughout North America, flu season (October through May) is upon us. That means it’s time for the public, healthcare workers and med students to get flu shots. Why? Because influenza can be a serious illness that can sometimes result in hospitalization and in some cases, death (especially amongst people age 65 and older).
The UMHS Endeavour looks at the importance of flu shots and common myths about flu vaccine and vaccines in general.
Why You Need a Flu Shot: CDC
Below are facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about influenza vaccine and why you should get a flu shot.
- Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.
- Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently.
- Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others.
- Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
- During recent flu seasons, between 80% and 90% of flu related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older.
- This year the CDC recommends injectable vaccines only. The nasal flu vaccines (such as “Flumist”) are not considered effective this year.
Common Flu Vaccine Myths
The CDC notes that flu vaccines “cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination” and the antibodies offer “protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.” However, many people refuse to get a flu shot because of common myths.
The website for Harvard Health Publications at Harvard Medical School lists common myths about flu shots. Below is a sample.
Myth #1: “You can catch the flu from the vaccine.”
Harvard says the vaccine is “made from inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection.” If you happen to get sick after the vaccine, you were likely going to become ill regardless because it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to work.
Myth #2: “Healthy people don’t need to get vaccinated.”
Although children, pregnant women and people age 49 and over are at the highest risk for flu, healthcare workers should also get a flu shot. “The flu shot is recommended for healthy people who might spread the virus to others who are particularly susceptible,” the Harvard website says. “For this reason, health care workers are routinely advised to get the flu vaccination to protect their patients.”
Myth #3: “Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to protect yourself from the flu.”
Harvard Health says there are many things we can to do protect ourselves from the flu besides vaccination, including “contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands frequently, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed to the flu before being vaccinated.”
Which Flu Vaccine is Recommended for the 2016-2017 Flu Season?
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) “recommends annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with either the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) or the recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV),” the CDC says.
For more information on flu vaccination for healthcare professionals, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/
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