The Flu Shot: A Vaccine with Benefits
Let’s be honest: The flu is not an illness that anyone wants to contend with. For those who are generally healthy, it is uncomfortable and exhausting, but for younger or older individuals, or those with other health conditions, it can easily become life-threatening. While many understand the flu shot is intended to protect us from specific strains of the virus and may not be 100% effective, it does offer several other benefits that outweigh any doubt.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone over the age of 6 months who is medically able should receive a flu shot each year. The vaccination is updated each season based on predictions of which strain or strains will be the most active, as well as compensate for any evolution of a previous strain, increasing your protection. If that reasoning alone is not enough to convince you, there are plenty of other benefits the vaccination provides.
The Flu Shot keeps you from Getting the Flu
Of course, the first reason we receive the flu shot is to prevent contracting the virus. Per the CDC, in the 2016 – 2017 season, the vaccine “prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza viruses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.” When the vaccine matches the currently circulating flu strains, it also reduces the need for a doctor visit for the flu by 40 to 60 percent.
Reduce Flu-Associated Hospitalization
The flu virus can become serious for people of any age, but is the most dangerous in children and older adults. A 2014 study revealed that in the 2010 – 2012 seasons, admission of children into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) due to flu-related complications dropped by 74% thanks to the flu shot. Not only that, but another study performed in 2018 showed that from 2012 – 2015, the vaccine reduced the risk of adults being admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) by 82 percent.
Important Preventative Tool for those with Chronic Health Conditions
Chronic health conditions make it tougher for your body to successfully fight off an illness, so any possible precaution is necessary. For individuals with heart disease, the vaccine has been associated with lower rates of certain cardiac events, especially for those who have had a cardiac event within the past year. It has also been shown in separate studies to help lower the rate of hospitalizations among individuals with diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Protect Yourself and Your Baby During and After Pregnancy
Pregnant women are at risk of complications from the flu as protection from their immune system has decreased. Fortunately, with the help of the flu shot, the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection is reduced by up to half. The vaccine also helps the baby after birth, because the antibodies naturally created by the mother are passed to the baby during pregnancy. This protection has been shown in several studies to be effective for several months after birth when the baby is not yet old enough to receive the vaccine.
The Vaccine could save your Child’s Life
A 2017 study published in Pediatrics has shown that simply receiving the flu shot significantly reduces a child’s risk of dying from the virus. More specifically, based on data from the seasons between 2010 and 2014, the risk of death for children with underlying high-risk medical conditions was reduced by 51 percent, and the risk of death for healthy children was reduced by 65 percent. Of the 358 lab-confirmed, flu-associated child deaths, the vaccination status was known on 291, showing that only 1 in 4 (26 percent) had been vaccinated.
Reduce Severity of the Illness
Even with the vaccine, there is still a possibility of contracting the flu, mainly due to mismatched strains. However, a 2017 study revealed “that flu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients.” A closer study in 2018 showed that “among adults hospitalized with flu, vaccinated patients were 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent 4 fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated.”
Protect Those around You
Receiving the flu shot not only helps you, but also those around you. By getting the vaccine, you are contributing to herd immunity, helping prevent the spread of the virus to those most vulnerable, such as babies, young children, and those with chronic health conditions. When the virus cannot infect and develop within a person, it is essentially stopped in its tracks, preventing its spread to the next person.
The benefits of receiving the flu vaccine are far greater than the risks and complications that could occur without. Opting to get the shot is an important decision that protects not only yourself, but those around you, as well. It is not simply a decision that will only affect your health alone. Get ahead of this flu season by stopping in today for your flu shot.