Joni Reynolds: Flu shots are important
November 30, 2011
To the editor:
Fall and winter typically bring stormy weather to Colorado, along with a storm front of a different kind: the annual flu season.
So, just as Coloradans should have a snow shovel and an ice scrapper handy for inclement weather, everyone older than 6 months should get an annual flu vaccination. Unfortunately, I encounter many individuals who simply don't get vaccinated.
Last week, I got my vaccination at my husband's worksite.
Unfortunately, while my husband works among many colleagues at a busy office, very few had registered to get the vaccine.
While there, I talked to many people about the importance of protecting the most vulnerable in the community and how it really took all of us working together to stay healthy. I hope I was persuasive.
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Here are some common excuses for not getting a flu vaccine that I'm compelled to debunk:
• The flu shot can give you the flu. — While many people experience short-term soreness after receiving the flu shot, the vaccine itself does not cause flu illness.
The viruses contained in flu shots are "dead" and therefore cannot cause infection.
• I'm not a good candidate for the flu vaccine. — As I stated earlier, getting an annual flu vaccine is a safe and preventative health measure that benefits all age groups, whether you're in good health or not.
But, there are exceptions to (nearly) every rule. For example, you should talk to a doctor before getting a flu shot if you've ever experienced a severe allergic reaction to eggs or to a previous flu shot.
Also, if you are sick with a fever at the time you are scheduled to receive the vaccine, you should ask your doctor or nurse to administer the vaccine later.
If you experience a serious reaction to the flu vaccine shortly after it's administered, you should call your doctor right away.
• The vaccines are not effective. — The ability of the vaccine to protect individuals against the flu depends on each person's age and health status and the similarity between the inactive viruses in the vaccine and those in circulation.
Some may experience flu-like symptoms because they were exposed to the virus shortly before getting the vaccination (or during the two-week period that it takes the body to build protection against the virus).
A person also may be exposed to an influenza virus that's not included in the seasonal flu vaccine.
• The shots hurt. — While the mere thought of getting a shot may be too much for some, there are new options for getting the vaccine that don't involve needles.
Influenza vaccinations, no matter how you get them — via traditional injection, new intra-dermal injections or nasal spray — are your best protection against the flu.
I would like to encourage health care workers, parents, children, seniors, adults, adolescents and everyone else to get their annual influenza vaccination.
Get in line to protect yourself and your community.
Now, I'll get off my soapbox so you can get your flu vaccination.
Director of public health programs, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment