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Should I Get a Flu Shot: Potential Protection From Unnecessary Hospital Exposure

November 21, 2019

It is the time of year where we are offered the flu vaccination at every Walgreens visit. Should you endure that simple poke of the arm? A flu shot can decrease your chance of an ER or hospital visit, avoiding exposure to a cesspool of illness. Below we explore the common questions surrounding the flu vaccination and the current recommendations by the CDC.

Why vaccinate against flu?

Influenza (the “flu”) is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Flu infections can affect people differently, but millions of people get the flu every year, and several thousand of those people die each year from flu-related causes. A flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu and serious flu-related complications.

How do flu vaccines work?

Flu vaccines cause antibodies  to develop in the body approximately two weeks after receiving the vaccination.  An antibody is a protective protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance. Antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are used to make the vaccine. Each year, the seasonal flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that will be most common during the upcoming season.

Who should get the flu vaccine?

Since the 2010-2011 flu season, the CDC has recommended for all people 6 months and older, with rare exception, to get a flu vaccine every year. The reason the CDC broadened the recommendation was to make sure there was access to the vaccine for those who were at higher risk for flu complications, including people over 65, children younger than 6 months, pregnant and post-partum women, and individuals with chronic medical conditions. Many do not realize they may be at higher risk for flu complications which can lead to unnecessary ER visits and hospitalizations that intensify the risk for greater complications. An annual flu vaccine is a safe and preventative health action that benefits all age groups and serves to minimize risk of complications that can result in hospitalization and in serious cases, death.

When should I get vaccinated?

You should get a flu vaccine before flu viruses begin spreading in your community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against flu. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Getting vaccinated later, however, can still be beneficial and vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season. So don’t delay, go today.

Can I get seasonal flu even though I got a flu vaccine this year?

It’s possible to get sick with flu even if you have been vaccinated.  Reasons for this include: you may already have been exposed to a flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the period that it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated; (2) you may be exposed to a flu virus that is not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. Unfortunately, some people who get vaccinated may still get sick. However, flu vaccination has been shown in some studies to reduce severity of illness in people who get vaccinated but still get sick. A study in 2018 showed that a vaccinated adult who was hospitalized with flu was 59 percent less likely to be admitted to the ICU than someone who had not been vaccinated.

At Buchanan Firm, we recognize the dangers of ER visits and hospitalizations. A hospital can be a dangerous place to be, and a simple flu shot can sometimes deter exposure to hospital hazards. Common hazards at hospitals include increased risk of infection and medical error, such as failure to monitor and medication overdose. Of course it is always recommended to check with your physician before getting a flu shot, but all data and studies point to it being a good idea to get the shot.  Not only does it protect you, but by getting the flu vaccine, you’re protecting others around you, like young children and the elderly, who are the ones who often die from severe flu.