Winter is approaching, so it is time to decide whether or not to get a flu shot. The flu shot is the single best way to prevent the flu, but less than half of all Americans get one. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that almost everyone over 6 months of age get a flu shot this year. Let’s take a look at some facts that support how the flu shot can be beneficial.
Preventing flu is easier and more effective than trying to treat the flu. While getting a flu shot won’t guarantee a season without the flu, evidence shows it generally reduces your risk by more than 50%. Those who get the flu when they have received the vaccine often get a milder illness. In 2016, the CDC is not recommending use of the flu nasal spray this year, even for children. The shot has proven to be more effective.
The flu shot is safe during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Pregnant women are at higher risk for complications from the flu, so immunization is even more important for this population. Additionally, the flu shot during pregnancy helps to protect the baby during the first 6 months of life, when they can’t get the flu shot themselves.
On average, about 24,000 Americans will die from complications of the flu in a given year. The highest risk groups are older adults, children less than five years of age, pregnant women, and those with chronic health problems. But we are all at risk, and typically adults between 18 and 64 account for more than half of the reported flu hospitalizations in a season.
When deciding whether or not you and your loved ones will get the flu shot this season, remember to consider the facts.
Michael Atwood, M.D., CHIE, is the vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He is a board certified family physician and an American Academy of Family Physicians fellow.