Stefanie Vigil, Director of Community Health
There is an abundance of facts, fiction, and opinions about the flu vaccine – some true, some false, and some just comical. Let’s debunk them here, and what better time to do it than National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW)? NIVW is a national awareness event focused on highlighting the importance of influenza vaccine and is celebrated between December 1-7, 2019.
First, I want to tell you I am not sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, nor am I a doctor. However, I do have a personal and professional interest in ensuring that when medically possible, we all do our part in preventing illnesses, colds, and of course the flu. In my work at True Health New Mexico, I have the pleasure of sharing information with our insured members about the flu, and I work closely with employer groups to set up flu shot clinics at their companies for employees and their families to have easy access to a flu vaccine.
The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year beginning at 6 months of age. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. Don’t let the fake news about the vaccine stop you from protecting yourself, your family, and community!
Fake news: You can get flu from the flu shot.
Fact: The flu shot can come with mild side effects that can easily be mistaken for early flu-like symptoms. The most common include mild soreness, tenderness, or a bit of swelling at the injection site. However, many people experience no side effects at all!
Fake news: Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu.
Fact: There are many steps you can take to protect yourself during flu season besides vaccination. Avoid contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands frequently, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed to the flu before you were vaccinated.
Fake news: It doesn’t matter if I get the flu shot; that’s not protecting anyone but myself.
Fact: Herd immunity is the protection from contagious disease that an individual benefits from as a result of living in a community where a critical number of people are vaccinated. When the majority of a community is not vaccinated, herd immunity fails. This is why it’s so important to get a flu shot every year. You may not be too worried about getting the flu, but you could pass it onto someone whose immune system couldn’t handle it, like a young child, an elderly person, and someone with a chronic or serious illness.
Because there is so much incorrect information about the flu out there, I recommend you rely on a reputable source for health information. My favorite is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You can learn more about who should and who shouldn’t get the vaccine, different types of flu vaccines, people at high risk for flu complications, the devastating flu pandemic of 1918, and more!