I wish flu vaccines were as predictably common as news articles and doctors’ pleas for people to get them. Every fall, the medical community implores us to get a simple flu shot. Yet, the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases reports that less than half of Americans are getting this simple, safe and effective vaccine. So I’m going to add to the symphony of those asking Wisconsinites to get their vaccine.
Let’s be clear about some flu facts. People of all ages need an annual flu vaccine. While the very young, very old and chronically ill are most at risk, anyone of any age and health status can get the flu, need hospitalization or even die from it. In fact, since 2010, the number of Americans hospitalized for the flu has ranged from 140,000 to 710,000 every year. The annual cost to our health system because of adults not getting vaccinated is $10 billion. I cringe every year when I hear someone with the sniffles say, “It’s just a touch of the flu.” The flu is serious, and, even if you don’t mind seven to fourteen days of misery, you have a responsibility to avoid spreading it to others.
Getting the flu vaccine is easier than ever before. Primary care doctors, pharmacies, and even some grocery stores now offer flu vaccines with no appointment necessary. Vaccines are covered with no copayment by nearly every major health insurer. They’re easy, convenient and require no out-of-pocket costs.
So why are only 46 percent of Americans getting vaccinated? Ok, let’s tackle some flu shot myths and obstacles:
- Flu shots aren’t 100 percent effective. True, if you get a flu shot, I can’t guarantee you won’t get the flu. They greatly reduce the chance you do, but you could still get sick. But, even if you do, it’s likely to be milder than if you hadn’t been vaccinated.
- Flu shots cause autism. Absolutely false. Based on countless studies, the Centers for Disease Control has stated unequivocally that there is no link between flu vaccines and autism. Enough said.
- The flu shot can make you sick. Again, completely false. The Harvard Medical School says that in the rare case someone gets sick after a flu shot, they were going to get sick anyway.
- Needles hurt. Okay, sure, shots hurt a little. But it’s a tiny needle, and is it really worse than one to two weeks of the flu? Or giving the flu to others in your family?
Can we close the book on flu vaccines now? This is not complicated. You need it, it’s not expensive, it’s safe and effective, and it can save lives. Get out there and get vaccinated, Wisconsin.