Letter to the editor: Get a flue shot

Get a flu shot

What if you heard of a virus that infects millions, hospitalizes hundreds of thousands and kills thousands each year? Many cases are entirely preventable, and yet, too few people choose to take the simple action necessary to protect themselves and their families.

This virus is the flu. And the simple preventive measure is a yearly flu shot.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone gets the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, preferably before the end of October. But it is not too late to get vaccinated. The sooner you get the vaccine the sooner protection takes effect. The flu is particularly dangerous for people over age 65, infants, very young children, pregnant women, healthcare workers and anyone with a chronic disease or a suppressed immune system. Even if you don't fit into one of these categories, you should still get the vaccine to protect yourself and others.

There is a vaccine available for everyone over the age of six months. And there are lots of types to choose from: the standard shot, a nasal spray, an intradermal shot and a high-dose shot. There are particular benefits to each, including whether or not there's a needle involved, the presence or relative absence of side effects, and how long the vaccine takes to become fully effective. Check with your doctor to see which form of the vaccine is appropriate for you.

Once you make the appointment, administering the vaccination takes just a few minutes. If you cannot see your doctor, many local pharmacies offer the vaccine. The vaccination provides protection through the entire flu season, which usually peaks December – February and can last through May. It protects you and helps to protect everyone around you.

Although the flu vaccine is the easiest and most effective first step to preventing the flu, it is not 100 percent guaranteed. Effectiveness may decrease with age and some underlying illnesses. Effectiveness is always better than if you do not get a vaccine at all! Data shows that flu and other viral illnesses may be less severe in vaccinated persons. Flu vaccine also helps avoid the complications that can occur after a bout of flu and may be more severe than flu itself: like bacterial pneumonias and strep skin infections. In addition, recent studies have shown flu vaccines to reduce hospitalizations in adults by about 75 percent.

Once you've received your vaccination and those for your family members, there are a few additional things you can do to decrease your odds of getting the flu even further and to decrease the overall impact of flu season.

1. Share the news of having received your flu shot with others. The CDC and the Vermont Department of Health are promoting the social media hashtag #Vaxwithme as a fun and easy way to remind others to get their flu shots and to improve everyone's chances of staying healthy through flu season.

2. Avoid close contact with sick people, wash your hands, and clean and disinfect the frequently touched areas at home and at work, especially if someone has been ill.

3. Exercise, stress management, hydration, healthy eating habits, and rest give your vaccinated immune system an added advantage over the flu and anything else that comes its way.

For the greatest impact with the least effort, start with a flu shot. It offers at least three quarters of your flu protection, and it takes minutes. This simple action could save you, a member of your family or a neighbor from this potentially serious illness.

— Marie George, MD Medical director of infectious disease at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center


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