Internist Elisabeth Poorman admits annoying her colleagues with her “skepticism about nearly every medical intervention.” One thing Dr. Poorman isn’t skeptical about, however, is an annual flu vaccine:
But I’ve checked, and I can tell you the vaccine works. It’s not perfect, but it’s among the best forms of protection we have.
If you get the flu vaccine, you are between 50 and 70 percent less likely to get the flu, depending on how well the vaccine matches the current strains of the virus. You are slightly more likely to have soreness or a short fever with the flu shot, but you cannot get the flu from the shot, because it does not contain any live virus.
Serious complications may occur in one out of every 500,000 people. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of Americans hospitalized for flu each year.
Children are especially vulnerable to really bad influenza infections and complications. Infants, children under 5 years old, those with chronic medical conditions (some of which are not rare, like asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and obesity), and children who go unimmunized (through no fault of their own) are especially at risk from this common seasonal virus. Robert Preidt reports on a new study of Canadian children confirming Dr. Poorman’s point that the easy way to keep kids out of the hospital from flu and its complications is to provide them with an annual flu shot:
Among children fully vaccinated against the flu, those aged 2 to 4 years had a 67 percent reduced risk of hospitalization due to the flu. Those 6 months to 23 months old had a 48 percent reduced risk, the study found.
Even those who were partially vaccinated (one dose of flu vaccine during their first flu season) had a 39 percent reduced risk of flu-related hospitalization, according to the study.
Dr. Poorman has stopped asking her patients if they want a flu shot. Instead, she tells them they need it. She says it’s an easy sell for her patients who haven’t fallen victim to the “fake news” cycle, where the bubble you reside in trumps the facts (no pun intended). Facts do matter, Dr. Poorman says, when the words come from a trusted physician’s mouth, website, or social media feed:
So here’s my attempt to invade your social media feed. Suggested tweet: “This doctor gave flu vaccines to her patients. You won’t believe what happened next: They were 50 to 70 percent less likely to get the flu!”
It’s not too late to make sure your kids are protected against influenza A and B. Call your pediatrician’s office today and set up a time to run in and get the best protection available. When all goes well, you’ll never know how important that flu shot really was to you, your child, and maybe even someone you never met.