9 Reasons to Get Your Annual Flu Shot
Every winter, as the weather starts to cool, the message in doctor’s offices and clinics, media outlets and schools to get your annual flu shot is renewed. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 140,000 to 710,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 12,000 to 56,000 flu-related deaths each year since 2010 in the United States. The CDC also notes that the flu shot is a person’s first and foremost line of defense against the flu and its possible complications, recommending that every American older than 6 months of age get a flu shot every year. Millions of people have heeded this call for decades yet, despite this, many people still choose not to get the flu shot. In fact, during the winter of 2015/2016 flu season, the CDC found that approximately 55 percent of the U.S. population failed to get their annual flu shot. Despite the flu vaccine reportedly preventing over 5 million cases of the flu, 2.5 million flu-related doctor visits, 71,000 flu-related hospital stays, over half of the U.S. neglected this important preventative measure. Even just a five percent increase in the rate of people getting the annual flu shot could prevent half-a-million more cases of influenza in the country, as well as 230,000 flu-related doctor visits and 6,000 flu-related hospital stays.
1. Protection for Yourself
The flu shot can prevent you from catching the flu. The flu shot helps your body create its own immunities in the event that you are actually exposed to a live virus. Avoiding the flu can prevent missed work days and help you save money on medications to combat the sickness. Additionally, if you have other chronic illnesses, the flu can lead to serious complications, it is best to protect your overall health by getting the flu shot as early in the year as possible.
2. Protection for Those Around You
Being vaccinated can protect everyone around you. Particularly, young children, infants, older adults and those with chronic medical conditions. In many areas of the country, free or low cost flu shots are available to those with low incomes, or those on a fixed income. Many insurance companies include the flu shot as a free benefit to subscribers.
3. Protection for Pregnant Women and Newborns
The flu shot helps to protect pregnant women from the flu as well as protecting their newborns for several months following birth. In fact, some studies have shown that when the mother takes the flu vaccine while pregnant, her baby’s risk of catching the flu is reduced by as much as one half. Furthermore, instances of acute respiratory infection associated with the flu was reduced by approximately one half in pregnant women on the flu vaccine.
4. Protection Against Pediatric Fatality
Vaccinations can significantly lower a child’s chances of dying from the flu. A 2017 study published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, verified this fact. Children do not have the same resistance to disease as adults making them much more vulnerable when exposed to the flu. Particularly in the school environment, children often pick-up and transfer germs.
This makes it more critical to have young children vaccinated.
5. High Risk Group Protection
If you are 65 years of age, an American Indian or Alaska Native, a pregnant woman or a woman having given birth within the past two weeks, a parent of a child younger than five years of age and especially younger than two years of age, your risk of flu is even greater and, therefore, the necessity of getting your annual flu shot all the more crucial. Other high risk factors include:
- Chronic lung disease
- Heart disease
- Endocrine or blood disorder
- Neurological conditions
6. Milder Symptoms
Even if the flu shot itself makes you sick, there is evidence that the severity of this sickness is milder than if you had not received the flu shot and later caught influenza. For example, a 2017 study in the medical journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, found the flu vaccine to be associated with shorter hospital stays, shorter intensive care unit stays, fewer ICU admissions and fewer deaths related to the flu.
7. Less Likely Hospitalization
If you do get the flu even though you have been vaccinated, there is less of a likelihood that you could wind up with severe symptoms or hospitalization. In fact, the flu vaccine is comparatively as effective in preventing cases of the flu severe enough to warrant hospitalization, as it was in preventing cases of the flu mild enough to warrant a mere doctor’s visit. These benefits are of particular importance to children and seniors, who could otherwise be at greater risk of such an outcome. One study, in 2014, found that the risk of pediatric ICU admission of children with the flu dropped by almost 75 percent due to flu vaccination, and another study, in 2016, found that adults 50 years of age and older who received the flu shot had 57 percent less risk of being hospitalized for the flu.
8. Reduce Chronic Illness Symptoms
The flu vaccine can help keep people who have chronic medical conditions from experiencing symptoms of those conditions, or from experiencing symptoms severe enough to warrant hospitalization. Reduced instances of cardiac related events in people with chronic heart disease, particularly in those who had a cardiac event within the previous year, and fewer hospitalizations of people with chronic lung disease and diabetes is attributed to taking the flu vaccination.
9. The Flu Changes
This last reason addresses the “annual” part of getting your annual flu shot, that is, why get the flu shot every year? The reason is that the flu virus changes from year to year. Like any virus, it adapts. It develops the ability to resist vaccinations against it. Therefore, the flu vaccination must change to remain effective. The flu vaccine you received this year is not the same as the one you received last year, nor is either the same as the one you will get next year. This is how medical science is able to keep up with this ruthless, virulent virus and why you should get your flu shot every year, not just once in your lifetime.