A Patient Asks: “Should I Get a Flu Shot?”
Flu season is nearly upon us. Every year, doctors across the country implore their patients to get flu shots, and every year, some of those patients refuse. Their reasons vary: “I never get the flu,” some say. “I always get the flu when I get the flu shot,” say others. “The flu shot doesn’t work,” a few complain. And finally, “Immunizations aren’t safe.”
All of these may sound like good reasons, but they’re not.
- “I never get the flu.” Even if you’ve never gotten the flu, you can still get it. The flu can be debilitating, and can put you and your loved ones at risk for serious health complications, including death. Patients at the extremes of age—those older than 65 and younger than 2—and those with certain medical conditions are at the greatest risk, but we all can suffer serious complications from the flu.
- “I always get the flu when I get the flu shot.” The flu vaccine can sometimes cause irritation and muscle soreness at the injection site, but it cannot cause illness. Flu shots are made either from inactivated (killed) virus or by using only a single gene from a flu virus to produce an immune response without causing infection. If a person becomes ill shortly after the injection it means they’ve been exposed to the flu virus, or some other virus, before getting the vaccine. Keep in mind that during flu season the incidence of other viral infections also goes way up.
- “The flu shot doesn’t work.” The flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu on average between 51 – 67 percent depending on how well the industry has predicted which particular strains of flu will be circulating during flu season. (Some seasons it’s lower and some it’s higher than this range.) Even if it doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu, if you’ve been vaccinated, you’re less likely to have a severe course and less likely to develop complications like pneumonia, hospitalization, and death. It also helps protect others around you from getting the flu.
- “Immunizations aren’t safe.” While no medical intervention can be guaranteed to be 100% safe for absolutely everybody, immunizations are among the safest. The few risks there are to receiving the flu shot occur literally in 1 – 2 patients per million.
The bottom line: please get your flu shot! Here at ImagineMD, we’re happy to spend the time going over the science behind immunization and review the safety data with you to make sure you’re comfortable and can make a truly informed decision.