Insight Chicago – With flu season just around the corner and the battle against COVID-19 still a top priority, September and October is the perfect time to get your annual flu vaccine. Unlike a common cold or other viral illness, influenza is a serious respiratory infection that impacts as many as 1 in 10 Americans each year and causes significant complications – especially in young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
The first and most important step in preventing influenza is to get a flu shot each year. Although the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, it is your best defense against getting sick, hospitalization, long-term effects, and even death. Whether you’re still undecided about getting the flu vaccine this year, are unsure about whether you’re eligible, or are concerned about possible side effects, here are eight reasons you should start making plans to get a flu shot this season and resources on how to find a flu vaccine near you.
Flu Shots Save Lives
The flu vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe illness and death. In most years, the vaccine reduces the odds of getting the flu by as much as 70%. If you do happen to get sick when vaccinated, chances are you won’t require hospitalization or experience serious complications. Unfortunately, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized due to complications from influenza each year and as many as 20,000 die from flu-related causes, such as dehydration, pneumonia, and infections. In a year dominated by the spread of infectious disease and other healthcare concerns, a simple flu shot will help you stay well and could even save your life!
Vaccines Change Yearly
Unlike diseases such as measles and hepatitis that involve a one-time vaccination, the influenza virus rapidly changes from year to year and requires people to re-vaccinate annually. Before each flu season, health experts determine which strain is most likely to occur in the year ahead and create new vaccines to meet that demand. Even if the flu virus strains do not change significantly, our body’s immune defenses (antibodies) that respond to the flu vaccine weaken over time and require annual boosters to ensure our defenses stay strong.
Mild Side Effects
One of the most common reasons people choose not to receive a flu vaccine is concern about side effects. Although they are possible with any vaccine, side effects from flu shots are generally very mild. In fact, many people report no side effects, and those who do tend to only experience minor headaches, stuffy noses, or sore throats shortly after being immunized. However, the potential side effects you may encounter from a vaccine will probably be insignificant when you consider the severity of symptoms and the length of time it takes to recover from the flu.
Most People are Eligible
Unless you are experiencing certain health conditions, everyone over the age of six months is eligible to receive a flu shot, according to CDC guidelines. There are a variety of flu shots approved for people of different ages, including a version suitable for people 65 or older, so it is important to speak with your healthcare provider before receiving a vaccine. They can answer any questions you may have and help you determine if getting vaccinated is the right choice for your situation. Pregnancy, allergic reactions to eggs or vaccine ingredients, prior severe allergic reactions, and not feeling well are all reasons to consult with your doctor before getting vaccinated.
In addition to keeping you protected from serious illness, getting a flu shot also protects those who chose not to get vaccinated or are ineligible to receive a vaccination by creating herd immunity. The flu virus spreads easily from person to person through coughing, sneezing, and touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. Even if you are in close contact with people for a short period of time during flu season, there is a good chance microscopic particles from an infected person will spread. Fortunately, when the majority of people get vaccinated, herd immunity develops and makes it much harder for the virus to impact our communities.
If you have a fear of needles, there is no reason to put off getting vaccinated. Needless nasal flu vaccines are now available. Research shows that the nasal spray works just as well as an injection in people ages 2 through 49 who are not pregnant. Like the traditional injection, minor side effects are possible, such as runny nose, aches, and tiredness. There is also an intradermal option approved for people ages 18 to 64 that uses a very small needle that only penetrates the skin.
Most Health Plans Offer Coverage
The Affordable Care Act requires most health insurance plans to cover preventive care, including flu vaccines. If you are unsure if you are covered, contact your health plan or your primary care physician for more information. If you are uninsured or underinsured, there are also options available at little or no cost at government health centers, urgent care clinics, and local pharmacies. Many employers also offer free flu shots, regardless of your insurance status.
Don’t Miss Work
The CDC urges people to stay home and avoid infecting others when they have the flu for at least four to five days after the onset of symptoms. However, more than 30 million workers in the private sector lack access to any form of paid sick leave and often show up to work when they’re not well, putting their coworkers and the public at risk. If you happen to get the flu, the last thing you want to worry about is your job. The best prevention against missing work due to illness is taking control of your health by getting an annual flu vaccine, making healthy decisions, and maintaining your health throughout the year.
No one likes getting sick, yet about half of all eligible Americans did not receive an influenza vaccine during the 2020-2021 flu season. This year, protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors by getting vaccinated. For more information about flu and COVID-19 vaccines or to find a location near you, visit vaccines.gov. Our team at Insight is also available to answer your questions and help you find a primary care physician that meets your needs. Call (312) 567-2000 in Chicago or (810) 732-8336 in Flint today.