Despite the high temperatures of the last few weeks, it’s important to remember that flu season is quickly approaching – and it’s not too early to get your flu shot. (And you’ll certainly prefer it to getting the flu.) Nevertheless, there’s still a lot of Americans who fail to get their shot. During the 2014-15 flu season, for example, over 40% of children and 66% of adults went unvaccinated! And keep in mind 2014-15 was a record high for vaccination coverage.
Much of the hesitation in getting a flu shot is likely due to not having a full grasp of the vaccine’s importance. That’s why Physicians Immediate Care thought it’d be helpful to remind its readers of the many, many benefits of the safe, simple, and inexpensive flu vaccine – especially when you weigh it against the dangerous, complicated, and steep costs.
Benefits of Getting a Flu Shot
Since 2010, hospitalizations related to the flu ranged from 140,000 to 710,000, according to the CDC. Flu-related deaths ranged from 12,000 to 56,000. A study from 2014 found that between 2010 to 2012, children’s risk of hospitalization due to the flu was reduced by 74% following vaccination. A study from 2016 found that people 50 years and older who received the vaccine were 57% less likely to require hospitalization. In addition to the reduced likelihood of hospitalization, flu vaccines have also been associated with a lower risk of cardiac events and complications from diabetes and chronic lung disease.
Besides the obvious health benefits of vaccination, there are economic benefits as well. A study from 2007 estimated the direct medical costs arising from the flu at $10.4 billion annually – that’s the cost of over 100 Boeing 757s! And the projected lost earnings and loss of life were estimated at $16.3 billion annually, which is over 10 times the largest Powerball jackpot in history. The total economic burden of the flu was estimated at $87.1 billion annually, which is 20% more than the federal government spent on education in 2016!
Pregnant? Protect Yourself and Your Baby
Pregnant women are at greater risk for severe illness from the flu, making it all the more important that they do get vaccinated. In fact, studies have found that pregnant women who received the flu vaccine lowered the risk of flu-related respiratory infection and other flu-related illnesses by nearly one-half.
According to the CDC, it is safe for women to get the flu vaccine during any trimester of pregnancy, and there’s little difference among the side effects they may experience and those experienced by others. Similarly, the CDC especially encourages breastfeeding mothers to get vaccinated as well to reduce the risk of passing the flu onto their baby. This is of particular importance for nursing babies under six months of age, as they are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.
Is There Anyone Who Shouldn’t Receive a Flu Vaccine?
The two main groups cited by the CDC are
- Children under six months of age; and
- People with life-threatening egg allergies
The CDC also recommends consulting a doctor for people who
- Are allergic to eggs or other ingredients in the flu vaccine
- Have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Are not feeling well
For individuals who may not be able to receive the vaccination themselves, the risk of getting the flu can be greatly reduced by encouraging those around them to receive the flu vaccine – particularly individuals who are at a high risk for the flu.
Who Is at a High Risk for the Flu?
The CDC lists its high-risk groups as:
- Children younger than 5 years old
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
Similarly, flu risk may be greater for individuals suffering from
- Heart disease
- Blood, Kidney, Endocrine, Liver, and Metabolic disorders
- Extreme obesity
- Weakened immune systems
- Neurological disorders
- Chronic lung disease
What Are the Side Effects of a Flu Shot?
As with nearly every type of medication, flu vaccines have the potential for side effects. Fortunately, those side effects, if they do occur, tend to be mild and usually clear themselves up after a few days. They may include:
- Soreness, redness, and/or swelling from the shot
- Muscle aches
Fear Not, Get a Shot!
Always keep in mind that the benefits of getting a flu vaccine far outweigh the potential costs. Severe reactions are rare, and the risks are greater with the flu itself – particularly for older and younger individuals who may be hesitant. If you or a loved one is among the few groups recommended not to receive a flu shot, encourage your friends and family to receive their vaccination – it will not only protect you but them as well! The greatest cost is really your time, that’s why PIC offers walk-in flu shots with a $0 copay with most insurance plans, so fear not – get a shot!
Sources: cdc.gov; vaccines.gov, sciencedirect.com