5 Reasons to Get the Flu Shot

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil
September 24, 2020
4 min read

  1. We Are Still Fighting COVID-19

This flu season is unique because we’re battling not one, but two serious and contagious respiratory illnesses at the same time and only one of them has a vaccine (and you can get it without delay at Carbon Health). COVID-19 has already caused close to 200,000 deaths in the United States alone and a vaccine may not be approved until 2021 at the earliest. By itself, the flu causes significant mortality and morbidity. Combining these two viral illnesses together has the potential to cause a catastrophic amount of health complications, hospitalizations, and deaths. While it’s imperative to maintain social distancing and comply with COVID-19 mask mandates, getting the flu vaccine decreases your risk of getting the flu and the possibility of having to fight two viral illnesses during the same season.

2. COVID-19 and the Flu at the Same Time? No Thanks!

It is possible to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time and trust us when we say you don’t want that! While it’s too early to fully understand the effects this combination will have on the body, both viruses target the lungs and can cause severe illness. It’s already known that influenza puts a person at risk for a subsequent “superinfection” with other pathogens, such as the bacteria Staph aureus, which can create nasty pneumonia and worsen a person’s already compromised lung function. Factor in COVID-19 and your short and long-term health can be seriously at risk.

It’s already known that influenza puts a person at risk for a subsequent “superinfection” with other pathogens, such as the bacteria Staph aureus, which can create nasty pneumonia and worsen a person’s already compromised lung function. Factor in COVID-19 and your short and long-term health can be seriously at risk.

3. Despite What You Heard, the Flu Vaccine is Safe

From a cost-benefit perspective, it’s far more beneficial to get the flu vaccine than get sick with the flu. Legitimate contraindications aside, many of the common reasons patients list for not getting the flu vaccine are actually misperceptions that spread like wildfire on social media.

For example, many people who decline to get the flu shot say they are worried about getting the flu from the injectable vaccine. This doesn’t happen, because the virus in the vaccine is inactivated, cannot reproduce, and therefore cannot give someone the flu. Someone who gets the flu shot and later develops symptoms may wrongly assume they were “given the flu.” They weren’t. Most likely, the symptoms are related to other predominant infections, such as the common cold or Streptococcal pharyngitis which are also common during this time of year. It is possible a person who receives the flu vaccine and was never previously exposed to the flu antigens may develop passing systemic symptoms, such as a fever or tiredness. However, this is more common in kids than adults. Lastly, certain side effects that some people experience are actually the flu vaccine doing its job because it triggers the immune system to rev up and create antibodies to protect against the flu. This process can sometimes cause mild symptoms.

Many who decline to get the flu shot say they are worried about getting the flu from the injectable vaccine. This doesn’t happen, because the virus in the vaccine is inactivated, cannot reproduce, and therefore cannot give someone the flu.

Another common reason people decline the flu shot is because they are worried about getting Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS), a syndrome in which the body’s immune system attacks your nerves and leads to tingling sensations and muscle weakness in the limbs. While GBS can happen after a vaccine, it’s extremely rare, and the risk of GBS is actually fifteen times higher after having the flu than after receiving the flu vaccine.

4. It Reduces Your Chance of Getting Seriously Ill…from the Flu

When someone gets sick from the flu, they are off their feet for a long time. This greatly impacts their work and personal life. When the flu vaccine is well-matched to the predominant viral strains, it reduces the risk of influenza illness by 40–60%. While vaccination rates are unfortunately low in the United States (last year only 45% of adults received the flu shot), the CDC estimates that during the last flu season, the vaccine prevented 4.4 million flu cases, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths. Let those numbers sink in!

The flu shot also significantly reduces intensive care needs and the duration of hospitalizations. Some decline to get the flu shot because they “got it in the past and got the flu anyway.” Depending on one’s age, health status, and how well matched the vaccine is, this can happen, however, research shows the flu vaccine still offers protection and lessens the severity of the infection overall.

5. It Will Help Free Up Hospital Beds for Vulnerable Patients

A surge in COVID-19 patients can quickly overwhelm a hospital. A concomitant influx of flu patients could be devastating. The main reason social distance, mask, and lockdown rules are in place is to ensure we don’t overwhelm our healthcare system with COVID-19 patients. Many influenza patients also require hospitalizations and intensive care, so getting the flu shot this year can help conserve our healthcare capacity and free up intensive care beds for those with acute and chronic medical conditions.

This year we’ve all had to find a new flow thanks to COVID-19. Don’t let the flu disrupt your new normal. Get you and your family vaccinated now to avoid a total flu fiasco.

Liked what you read? Learn more by downloading the Carbon Health app or visiting carbonhealth.com.

Aaron S. Weinberg MD, MPhil

Aaron S. Weinberg, MD, MPhil, is Director of Program Development at Carbon Health and triple board-certified in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Internal Medicine.


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