Every year, people come up with various excuses for why they shouldn’t get the flu shot.
Dr. Robert Sedlacek, a family medicine physician at Ascension Medical Group at Merrill has heard his share.
“The excuses people use for not getting the flu shot are often based on incorrect medical information or myths, but working in our Merrill clinic for several years, I’ve seen the real-life health consequences that people suffer by not getting their yearly flu shot,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that last year influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits and 71,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
Dr. Sedlacek explains how the more people who get vaccinated against the flu, the better for the wellbeing of the community as a whole. “Herd immunity is when the vaccinated community protects those who aren’t immunized,” he said. “The more people who get vaccinated for the flu, the more people will be protected from it.”
Dr. Sedlacek counters the top excuses for not getting the flu shot:
Excuse #1: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I should still be immune this year.
Fact: Immunity from the flu vaccine doesn’t “wear off,” but the vaccine must be reformulated every year in an effort to match the most common circulating strains. That’s why you should get the flu shot every year.
Excuse #2: I’m scared of needles. I’ve read that the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is equally effective.
Fact: The CDC doesn’t recommend the nasal spray flu vaccine this year because of concerns about its effectiveness. Last year, the spray’s effectiveness was just 3 percent, versus 63 percent for the shot. If your child is scared of needles, ask your provider if a numbing cream can be applied to the area before getting the shot.
Excuse #3: The flu vaccine will give me the flu.
Fact: The flu is caused by a live virus. You can’t get the flu from the shot because the vaccine contains viruses that are inactivated or severely weakened.
Excuse #4: I hear the flu vaccine can be dangerous for children.
Fact: A CDC study published in Pediatrics found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 51 percent among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, among healthy children.
Excuse #5: If I get the flu, I can take antibiotics to get better.
Fact: Since the flu is a viral infection, it can’t be treated with antibiotics. If caught early, an antiviral medication may reduce the severity of infection with influenza; see you primary care physician for details.
Excuse #6: I got the flu shot last year, and I still got the flu.
Fact: The flu shot cannot offer 100 percent protection against the flu, but it can reduce your risk of getting it and reduce the risk of flu-related complications such as hospitalizations or even death.
While there are many reasons why you might not want to get the flu shot, there are many more reasons why you should.
For more information or to schedule a flu shot in Merrill, please call 715.804.7500 or visit ascension.org/wisconsin.