Do You Really Need a Flu Vaccine?

By Mary Warzecha

Everyone knows that the flu vaccine should be given to the elderly and those suffering with a chronic health condition. But, now, more and more doctors are advising young healthy people to vaccinate against the flu. "I'm convinced the shot is a good idea for anyone who wants protection from the flu," says Frederick Hayden, M.D., professor of medicine and pathology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine.

An average flu season kills 20,000 Americans and costs the country billions of dollars in lost productivity and medical expenses. The single best way to protect yourself from the flu, says Ray Strikas, M.D., a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to get the vaccine which contains three different flu virus strains that are likely to circulate in the upcoming winter.

As it takes an average of one month for full immunity to take place in the body, it is suggested that the best time to get vaccinated is mid-September through mid-November.

Some of the myths surrounding the flu vaccine include the following:

  1. It could give me the flu.
    The flu vaccine is made from inactive viruses that can't cause disease. When you hear stories about people that developed the flu shortly after taking the vaccine, it is just coincidence. The vaccine takes up to two weeks to become effective and cannot protect from infections that happen before then.
  2. Why? what's the big deal? The flu is just like having a cold.
    Flu-like symptoms are much more than a simple cold. Even a mild case can make one miserable with symptoms that can drag on from 1-3 weeks. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. Virus organisms can work their way deep into the lungs causing pneumonia.
  3. I'm not high risk. So why bother?
    Chances are that either you or someone in your family falls under one or more of the high risk categories--including the elderly or young children. The bottom line is, whenever you are in contact with people, you run the risk of contacting the flu.
  4. Yes, but I heard it's expensive to get the shot.
    It is by far more expensive to be treated for the flu. Time is lost from work, productivity is down. Work sits and accumulates during your absence. Time is taken away from family activities because recovery takes so long, even after one has returned to work. The actual cost of inoculation will run between $8 to $20.
  5. I'll have to take time off from work just to get vaccinated.
    You'll also have to take time off from work if you get sick. One option is to talk to your employer about on-site flu clinics.There are organizations, like OHWM, that go to businesses and organizations to inoculate the employees on-site. Therefore, no time is lost from work..