3 Reasons You Should Get the Flu Vaccine
Schneck Medical Center - October 21, 2020

Although most of the world has rightly been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, we should not forget that we are also approaching influenza season. In this blog post, we answered several questions about what to expect with the flu this year; in this post we want to offer three reasons why you should consider getting a flu vaccine. Those reasons are as follows:

  1. to avoid getting the flu
  2. to feel less sick
  3. to prevent overwhelming hospitals
Let's look at these one at a time.
 

1. Avoid Getting the Flu

Obviously, the primary reason to get the flu vaccine is to decrease your chances of getting influenza. If you've ever had the flu, you know it is not fun. Fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, fatigue—influenza will leave you miserably bed-ridden for several days.
 
But influenza can also be deadly. During the 2018-2019 season, 490,600 Americans were hospitalized and 34,200 died from influenza.
 
According to the CDC, getting a vaccine is the most effective way to avoid contracting the virus. Flu vaccines work by causing antibodies to develop in your body through inactive viruses that fight off new flu infections. No vaccine can guarantee that you will not contract the flu, however. That's because influenza is a rapidly-evolving virus that morphs and develops new strands between seasons (hence the need for seasonal vaccines). Scientists develop the best possible vaccines in advance, but only time can prove their effectiveness.
 
Is this a reason to neglect the vaccine? No. Even if not 100% effective, getting a flu shot is still a smart, affordable, and quick way to decrease your odds of contracting this virus, as well as spreading it to others. (Like COVID-19, influenza is a highly contagious respiratory disease.) And even if you still end up catching the flu, the vaccine will likely mitigate your symptoms—which gets us to the second point.
 

2. Feel Less Sick

It's true you may still contract the flu after getting the vaccine, but authorities at the CDC say it will help you feel less sick. You may also heal and recover faster!
 
Charles Chiu, infectious disease expert at the University of California San Francisco, explains it like this: “What’s valuable about the vaccine is that even if it is, say, only 50 percent protective one year, it has been shown that getting the vaccine may decrease the severity of illness and your risk of being hospitalized for influenza.”
 
No one wants the flu. But if you have to go through it, why not take steps toward milder symptoms and a faster recovery?
 

3. Prevent Overwhelming Hospitals

The first two points are good reasons to get the flu vaccine any year, but this final reason is specific to the 2020-2021 season.
 
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, health experts have expressed concern that adding a second respiratory illness to the current pandemic could overwhelm the healthcare system. If coronavirus cases and flu cases spike simultaneously, some hospitals could quickly lose capacity to treat both groups of patients.
 
But if more people receive the flu vaccine, hospitals should experience fewer influenza hospitalizations, leaving capacity for patients with COVID-19, a far deadlier disease, and one we're still attempting to solve.
 

Next Steps

So, most people will benefit from a flu shot; however, a select demographic should not receive the vaccine, including children younger than 6 months or people with severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccines or ingredients in the vaccine. Read more about such cases from the CDC here.
 
Of course, a flu shot isn't the only way to avoid influenza. We discussed other preventative steps you can take in our earlier post—steps like washing your hands regularly, wearing a mask in close-quarters, and regular exercise. Still, getting the influenza vaccine remains the best way to avoid getting the flu, feel less sick, and prevent overwhelming hospitals during these trying times.
 
Dr. Wilson headshotWe'll end with a word of wisdom from Dr. Matthew Wilson of Schneck Primary Care, Jackson Park: "I really believed in flu shots once I had influenza. I never felt so bad in my life and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. So please, get a flu shot, encourage family and friends to get their flu shot, and protect one another and our community."
 
Ready to give it a shot? Contact your primary care physician to schedule your flu shot today!
 
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