Every fall I hear people question whether to get a flu shot. After 80,000 estimated influenza-related deaths last flu season, I wonder why anyone would consider not getting the vaccine. That’s the highest death toll in four decades.
My advice: Don’t get it for yourself. Do it for someone else.
Here’s why: Someone carrying the influenza virus can spread it to another person a full 24 hours before their own symptoms develop. Even after symptoms develop, the virus remains contagious for five days in adults and 10 days in children.
Think of how many people you could infect and put at risk in just one day. For the elderly, young children and others with weaker immune systems, the virus can be life-threatening.
Who Should Get It
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends anyone older than 6 months get vaccinated. The few exceptions include people with life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine.
When to Get It
Flu season varies by geography, but CDC recommends getting it by the end of October. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body. Vaccination can still be beneficial into January or later, if available.
How to Find a Shot
If your employer didn’t offer it or you missed the opportunity, check with your doctor, a local clinic or health department, urgent care center and major pharmacy chains.
How to Pay for It
Health plans are required to pay for them. If you don’t have health insurance, pharmacies typically charge between $30 and $40.
Get It Every Year
The body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, and flu viruses change from year to year. Vaccines are updated accordingly.
How Effective Is it?
Statistics vary from year to year and virus to virus, and protection depends on your age and health status, but studies overwhelmingly show that the vaccine reduces your chance of infection. It also reduces the severity of symptoms if you do get sick.
If you sat on the fence and missed your freebie, it’s not too late. Do yourself a favor and find a flu shot. Better yet, do it for your friends, family, coworkers and everyone else.