More than 80,000 people died from influenza related illnesses last winter—a staggering number and one of the highest in over a decade according to the CDC. The importance of getting a flu shot can't be overstated, so why do some people avoid it?
"Misinformation is one reason," said Dr. Marita Michelin, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Newark-Wayne Community Hospital. "There are a lot of myths out there about the flu shot that simply aren't true."
One of those misconceptions is the belief that the flu shot can cause the flu.
A recent survey found that more than half of parents with children under age 18 believe that their child can get the flu from the flu shot. In fact, it's not possible to get the flu from the flu vaccine, since the vaccine contains deactivated or weakened ingredients.
"There's a small window of about two weeks from when you get the vaccine that you are susceptible to getting the flu, since it takes time for the vaccine to provide protection," said Dr. Michelin. "Anyone who gets the virus during this window does so because the vaccine hasn't kicked in yet, but certainly not because the vaccine has given you the flu."
Another common myth, said Dr. Michelin, is people thinking because they never get sick, they won't get the flu.
Getting your flu shot before the flu season begins provides the best protection from the virus. Antibodies that protect against influenza take about two weeks to build up after receiving the shot, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as the vaccination becomes available.
Dr. Michelin says that recommendations are that everyone over the age of six months should receive the vaccine annually.
“The vaccine will not only help to protect you from getting the flu, but new research shows it will also help lessen the severity of the symptoms should you get the flu,” she explained. “The influenza virus is constantly changing. Each year, researchers work to identify the virus strains they believe will cause the most illness and the vaccine is made off their recommendations. So it is important to get vaccinated every year.”
Children between six months and eight years of age may need two doses to be fully protected from the flu. Additionally, a higher potency vaccine is available to those over 65.
Dr. Michelin also emphasized the value of flu vaccines for pregnant women. Complications can arise from the flu in pregnant women including pneumonia and hospitalizations. The benefit for both the mother and the baby are critical.
Lastly, Dr. Michelin stressed the significance of hand hygiene.
“Whether you use an alcohol based hand sanitizer or soap and water, it’s crucial to keep your hands clean so you don’t spread germs to others or contract the disease yourself,” she said.
The flu vaccine is currently available at your Rochester Regional Health primary care location along with additional walk-in locations sponsored by Monroe County.
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Dr. McMillan noted he has always wanted to work in a hospital pharmacy, and he believes that completing a residency is the best way to continue on that path.
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