So here we are in the first week in January and no influenza cases have been identified at Children’s Hospital! The bad news is that influenza — and all its horrible symptoms and sequelae — is coming. If this one is like every other flu season, it will be, at a minimum, terrible — even life-threatening — for many of our family members, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and perfect strangers.
The good news is that there is still time to get vaccinated against influenza if you haven’t already. Ongoing global surveillance of the virus’s predominant strains indicates that this year’s flu vaccine will be highly effective in preventing influenza completely in most recipients. (In a few other people, the influenza vaccine will partially protect them. In other words, you can still develop symptoms of influenza if you’ve had the vaccine, but the symptoms will be much, much, much milder than if you don’t get the vaccine and you come down with the flu.)
Because the influenza virus is so contagious and the symptoms so severe and dangerous and unpredictable, all people — not just the very young, the very old, the very sick — are considered at high risk.
If you get the flu, you will miss at least a week of work being very sick (and perhaps an additional week recovering). Same for a child or teenager who attends school. Work projects will be missed or put on hold, school work will be missed and need to be made up, and after-school activities like sports, clubs, jobs, etc. will need to go on without you. Is the risk of getting the flu (a.k.a. “a cold on steroids”) really worth it by taking the chance and not getting a simple and safe vaccine?
We know from objective, evidence-based scientific facts, best practice recommendations, and just plain common sense that getting a flu vaccine this and every year is the right thing to do to protect yourself, those you know and love, and even those who you’ll never meet.
The only rational excuse that I’ve ever heard for not getting a flu vaccine (other than having a true medical contraindication to the vaccine, such as a prior allergic reaction which is exceedingly rare) is that the shot hurts. I’m not going to sugar coat this. The flu vaccine is a shot — it hurts! Really, though, it only hurts a little bit. So get over it (or search for the utterly-painless — but this year in short supply — intranasal FluMist instead) and get your flu vaccine now! Maybe your doctor or pharmacist will give you a pretzel or lollipop for your effort!
For parents who have a hard time pinning down their busy teenagers long enough to get a flu shot, here is an informative and entertaining video from the University of Pittsburgh (courtesy of our friends at the Allegheny County Immunization Coalition) that speaks directly to them:
More about influenza on The PediaBlog here.
More from the Allegheny County Immunization Coalition here.