By Daniel Zemke, BA, CAPM
Outreach and Engagement Representative
Advantage Health Center
Top Three Flu Shot Myths by Daniel Zemke
There is a lot of confusion over the flu shot. I hear a lot of people say:
“I don’t need the flu shot because I never get sick.”
“I wash my hands so I don’t need the flu shot.”
“I don’t need the flu shot because the flu is not that big of a deal.”
Even I, at one point, was scared of getting my flu vaccination because I’m not the biggest fan of needles. But after working in a community health center organization for the past four years, I understand the importance of protecting yourself from the flu. Let me walk you through the three most common reasons why I hear people don’t get the flu shot and why they should reconsider.
- I don’t need the flu shot because I never get sick.
It is true: some people have the immune system of an Olympian and never become physically sick (my puny immune system is very jealous). However, just because you don’t show symptoms of the flu does not mean that you are not actively carrying it. The most susceptible people to flu are the very young and the very old. You may unknowingly transmit the flu by rubbing your eyes and picking up your newborn child or just by talking to your elderly parent. And then your loved one is at risk of becoming sick. It happens all the time. But if you get your flu shot, it adds a shield to your already Herculean immune system that helps protect those that you most care about.
- I wash my hands so I don’t need the flu shot.
Washing your hands is important in fighting sickness but it may not be enough a lot of the time. Our work areas, public spaces, even our homes are covered in germs. Washing your hands does help protect yourself from getting sick, but many people do not wash their hands properly (the World Health Organization recommends 20-30 seconds of thorough scrubbing) or you may touch a dirty surface immediately after cleaning. This is where the flu vaccine comes in. When your body encounters the influenza virus, and it probably will, your immune system will be prepared to fight it because of the antibodies it created from the flu shot.
- I don’t need the flu shot because the flu is not that big of a deal.
I probably hear this one the most and it is, unfortunately, wrong. More than 80,000 people died from the influenza virus last year. Eighty THOUSAND people. Let that sink in for a moment. That is twice the amount of vehicular deaths (40,000) reported in the US last year. That is more than thirty times the population of my hometown (~2500). It’s a lot more than what people expect and that may be one of the most dangerous parts of influenza: how prevalent it is.
Since most people experience minor symptoms from the flu, they view it more as an irritation than a hazard. But, as we covered before, the most at-risk people in the community are infants and the elderly whose immune systems are not as strong as everyone else’s. And many of the occurrences can prove fatal if the proper steps are not taken.
Ultimately, the flu shot is not perfect. Nothing is. But it is the best line of defense we have for protecting ourselves and our loved ones from influenza. So go to your doctor’s office, local public health department, or wherever you pick up your prescriptions from and get vaccinated. Let’s fight the flu together. 🙂