October 03, 2016 / Keith Wilson, M.D.
This winter, you could catch a terrible flu, give it to your family, feel awful for days on end, and possibly have dangerous — maybe even fatal — complications.
Or you could avoid all that with a flu shot.
Seems like a no-brainer, right? Especially since many of us can get flu shots for free through our insurance, clinic or county health department. And yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 47.1% of all Americans received a flu shot in 2014-2015. Which means there’s a good chance YOU are one of the folks who didn’t get one.
Why does such a large portion of the population avoid this simple, free step when it’s been proven to prevent misery? There are a lot of excuses. But if one of them is yours, you should know it’s based on misinformation — all of them are. See for yourself.
Check out these popular excuses for not getting a flu shot, and the reasons you should ignore each and every one of them.
1. Excuse: “I don’t have time to get a flu shot.”
Ignore it because: Refusing to take an hour out of your busy schedule to get vaccinated might end with you catching the flu and feeling too sick to get out of bed for a week—or more.
2. Excuse: “Vaccines make you sick.”
Ignore it because: It’s false. Flu shots are made of dead viruses, which can’t make you ill. However, vaccines take two weeks to start working, so you could get the flu after having the shot, but before it takes effect. The vaccine itself, though, will never make you sick.
3. Excuse: “I’m healthy. I don’t need a flu shot.”
Ignore it because: Anyone, at any age, in any state of health, can suffer from severe flu symptoms. That’s why if you’re more than 2 months old, the CDC recommends you get the shot. Not only will it help you avoid illness, it will protect those around you who aren’t as healthy—since you won’t have the virus to pass along to them.
4. Excuse: “I protect myself by washing my hands a lot.”
Ignore it because: Washing your hands with soap and water is important, but it won’t stop the flu. A person is contagious a day before flu symptoms appear, and may spread the virus before they even know they have it. Influenza travels through the air via droplets of saliva—which may land on someone’s face, or on a surface touched by lots of people, who in turn put their hands on their eyes, nose or mouth. If this sounds gross and scary, it’s because it is. Only one thing can give you more control over this situation. That’s right: a flu shot.
5. Excuse: “Getting a lot of vaccines is bad for people, especially kids.”
Ignore it because: Many trusted medical organizations, including the Institute of Medicine (IOM), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the CDC, stand by the statement that vaccines produce only rare and minor side effects (such as a sore spot on your arm where you got the shot). Meanwhile, vaccines have wiped out polio, whooping cough, tuberculosis, small pox and other diseases that once crippled and killed thousands and thousands of Americans.
Please, protect your health and the health of others. Go get a flu vaccine. The sooner, the better. If you don’t have a doctor, visit http://vaccine.healthmap.org/ and plug in your zip code to find a place that provides flu shots near you.