Summer is coming to a close are still popping up into the 100s. The flu is the last thing parents have on their minds. The start of a new school year is just weeks and flu season is right behind it. As a physician and new dad, I’m already thinking about the flu season. Some will soon have to decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine. This not a question in my family – it’s a given. No time like the present! Let’s give this subject some thought.
As an ER physician with 12 years of experience, I have heard many reasons that patients forego the flu vaccine over the years. One popular sentiment is that the flu is really just a bad cold. While it’s true that influenza is a virus and can manifest with few or no symptoms, per the CDC, 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year from the flu or complications of the flu in the US alone. According to the CDC, 80% of the children that died had not been vaccinated. Those most at risk are small children, the immunocompromised, and the elderly.
The vaccine obviously provides protection to those that receive it, but something most don’t consider is herd immunity. Herd immunity refers to the decreased ability of a contagious disease to spread when enough people are vaccinated against that disease. That means that healthy people who choose to get the flu shot are not just protecting themselves from a “bad cold”, but can actually help save the lives of children, elderly, and others for whom the virus may be more dangerous.
“So, I get the benefits of getting vaccinated, but are there risks?”
The flu vaccine is extremely safe but there are some considerations. But aren’t there considerations for anything we decide to do in life like drive a car, take medicine, travel abroad, fly in a plane, etc.? Perhaps the best endorsement I can personally give it to say that my wife is a nurse practitioner and was pregnant during flu season last year. First, she got the flu vaccine while pregnant to help protect our baby who would be born during flu season. We were overjoyed with our sweetest gift, a baby girl in November. We did not let our family visit until they got the flu vaccine (and the pertussis vaccine but that’s for another blog). We told them early so they had plenty of time to prepare and build antibodies. By the way, babies over six months old can get vaccinated. Our baby will be one of the first in line this season.
Everyone experiences some discomfort (who enjoys a shot?) from the needle stick and most have some soreness at the site during the days after the injection. A few will experience muscle aches, malaise, and sometimes fever. Far fewer experience allergic reactions ranging from hives to severe reactions, which again, can happen from anything that we put into our bodies. To be fair, in extremely rare cases, the flu vaccine has been associated with a serious neurological condition called Guillian-Barre Syndrome. Again, this is very rare. There is no risk whatsoever of contracting the flu from the flu shot. It contains only viral antigens and never any of the actual live virus.
Once deciding to get the vaccine, know that it takes about two weeks for the shot to actually become effective. Also, there is a chance of contracting the flu even after getting the vaccine. If this occurs, your symptoms will likely be less severe and the risk of passing on the virus may be decreased.
University Urgent Care will be offering the flu vaccine this fall. Most insurance plans cover the vaccine. If your insurance doesn’t cover it, the cash price is only $20. If you or your loved one suspects they have the flu, please don’t hesitate to get evaluated at UUC. We are proud that wait times are less than five minutes. You will be seen by a board-certified physician and registered nurses. We have on-site lab testing, X-ray, and ultrasound.
Please see our website for more details regarding our services at www.icare-er.com.
Please call our any of our centers with questions anytime. We are happy to help.
Shane Cole, MD
CEO University Urgent Care
A word from Lauren Green, RN, BSN:
“I can speak to this issue not only as a health care provider but also as a mother of three young girls. I have been an ER nurse for nine years and I have gotten a flu vaccine every year because I take care of a lot of patients with the flu each season. Even when I was pregnant, I made sure to receive the flu vaccine to protect myself against this dangerous virus. My daughters have all been vaccinated each year since they were 6 months old. They are now 7, 4, and 2 years of age. My daughters and I have been very lucky to have never gotten the flu. I will continue to vaccinate myself and my family each year to keep increasing our immunity to the virus.”
University Urgent Care
3107 Greene Ave
Fort Worth, TX 76109
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