Letters to the Editor

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

In support of Carbon Pollution tax

I write today in regards to the Vermont Carbon Pollution Tax that was proposed during the 2015 legislative session and has since gained strong grassroots support and media attention. I see this is a step in the right direction for Vermont's energy future. Burlington was the first U.S. city to run on 100 percent renewable energy; in light of that accomplishment moving forward, Vermont being the first state to enact a Carbon Pollution Tax would be another major accomplishment. Not only would it make a statement that we as Vermonters are invested in combating pollution and climate change, but the tax would also directly benefit our economy. The Carbon Pollution Tax revenue can go directly back into rebates and tax cuts for Vermont citizens and businesses. Over 350 different Vermont businesses have endorsed the Carbon Pollution Tax, such as Seventh Generation and Ben and Jerry's.

Although to date there are no states within the US that have enacted a carbon tax, that does not mean this is totally uncharted territory. In 2008 British Columbia put a carbon tax in place and looking back almost eight years later it has been nothing short of a success story. British Columbia now has the lowest income tax rate in all of Canada and per capita fuel consumption has dropped by 16 percent.

I implore you all to not just listen to press coverage of this proposed legislation, but learn about it yourselves, either by reading the proposed legislation, learning more about British Columbia's experience, or by visiting the Energy Independent Vermont (EIV) website. EIV is a coalition of environmental organizations, Vermont businesses and business associations, academic leaders, low-income advocates and Town Energy Committees all working towards building a sustainable energy future for Vermont.

A carbon pollution tax is a great opportunity for Vermonters to change our economy, by taxing what we don't want and putting that money towards what we do want.

— David DaSilva



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