Weekly Feature

2018-11-08 / Editorial

For a healthy holiday season, get a flu shot

Bee Editorial

Each year, some Americans avoid getting vaccinated against the flu because they fear that a flu shot will give them the virus. But this simply isn’t the case, and with less than half of the adult population in the U.S. getting vaccinated each flu season — which coincides with the holiday season and cold weather — there’s a good chance you’re going to get sick.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 43 percent of adults age 18 and older got vaccinated during the 2016-17 season, coverage which dropped to about 37 percent last season. That’s the lowest coverage percentage in seven years. Coverage also dropped among children, going from 59 percent to about 58 percent. These percentages leave the majority of adults and more than 40 percent of children susceptible to the flu. That’s why it’s time to get your flu shot, and the first thing to know is that it can’t give you influenza. The CDC indicates that vaccines either contain an inactivated and no longer infectious strain of the virus, a particle designed to look like a flu virus to your immune system, or a live virus that has been changed so as not to infect a person. Hundreds of millions of Americans have received them without infection in the past 50 years.

A second thing to know is that flu shots can cause minor side effects, none of which are influenza, and all of which go away on their own within a few days. These include soreness, redness and/or swelling from the shot, headache, fever, nausea and muscle aches. The tradeoff for these discomforts is increased immunity against a virus that led to an estimated 960,000 hospitalizations and 79,000 deaths in 2017-18.

The Erie County Department of Health argues that while not 100 percent effective, flu vaccines are the “best protection we have against this very serious disease,” and guard against three different flu viruses.

Every person should get a flu vaccine yearly, with the exception of infants younger than 6 months and people who have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or any of its ingredients.

To learn more about where you can get a flu shot in Erie County, contact your health care provider, a local pharmacy, or get in touch with one of the following agencies:

• Independent Nursing Care, 805-1020

• Niagara County Health Department, 278-1903

• Passport Health, 855-729-2479

For additional sites, visit https://vaccine finder.org/.

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