Should I Get a Flu Shot?

For 13 years, I adamantly refused to get the Flu vaccine believing that receiving the injection would end in some deleterious event. For the last two years, I have had a change of heart. 

The vaccines are relatively harmless and the overall benefits to receiving the immunizations are greater. The general side effect of the vaccine is soreness at the injection site. According to the CDC, the vaccine this year protects against A (H3N2) virus, an influenza B virus, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.  Vaccines are not 100% protective, but they do reduce the risk for illness and unnecessary deaths.

When is it too late to get the Flu vaccine? The flu season is usually at its height in January or February, but it can last as late as May. It is not too late to get the Flu vaccine. People who are at highest risk for the flu are the elderly and the very young, but anyone can get the flu. It is transmitted through multiple routes, including coughing, sneezing, or other droplets such as talking or touching a surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. The person who is infected with the flu is contagious one day before symptoms show up.

As a healthcare provider and someone who rides the train for transportation, I realized that it is my responsibility to protect not only myself from the burden of the flu, but also those whose immunity cannot protect them. There are plenty of individuals around us everyday who are, young, old, immunosuppressed, or pregnant whose bodies cannot handle the effects of the flu. Some individuals in the aforementioned group will die if they get the flu. 

I decided that I did not want to put anyone at risk, when there was a way to avoid spreading influenza. The question you may want to ask yourself may be: Is it worth me protecting myself and others from a virus that is controllable through a vaccine? Is it worth having flu symptoms for 2 weeks?

The people who should not get the Flu vaccine, according to the CDC, are those with a history of an allergic reaction to the Flu vaccine, people with a known egg allergy, or children under 6 months of age. If any of these apply to you, consult your physician.

Besides protecting the public and your family, the Flu vaccine is a preventative way to protect yourself and maintain your health. By the way, I have not had the flu for the past two years! And, I work in an ED and travel the subways everyday, where there is a high risk of flu transmission. I will continue to receive the vaccine each year to protect myself and those around me.

Photo Credit: USACE