Hylton I Lightman MD DCH (SA) FAAP November 2023
My readers know I am a proponent of the flu vaccine. I advise and encourage my patients to have the flu vaccine. It is not perfect and there have been cases of flu even after being vaccinated. The flu vaccine is made of dead flu viruses. Since they’re dead, you can’t catch the flu from them. Also, when you get a vaccine, it takes about 2 weeks for your body to be ready to fight. In addition, many viruses mimic flu symptoms. The nasal flu vaccine is a live vaccine and as such is not given to immunocompromised patients or those with chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma.
Nonetheless, the flu vaccine mitigates against stronger symptoms and a person’s becoming even sicker. Lest we forget, the flu can kill people.
In a nutshell, this is what we need to know as “background” about the flu vaccine.
- Get the flu vaccine as soon as you can to protect yourself. Everyone age 6+ months should have the flu vaccine. (Under the age of 9 years, there should be a history of 2 flu seasons in one season).
- Children age 2 years and younger who come down with the flu are more likely to have serious complications. As a result, both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the flu vaccine for just about everyone who are at least 6 months old.
- Any person with a chronic illness, heart disease, diabetes, on steroids or immunosuppressives must be vaccinated.
- In addition, babysitters, housekeepers, teachers, Rebbes, Morahs, therapists and others who work with children should also be vaccinated.
- Even if you’re healthy, your co-workers, friends, or family may not be. Getting vaccinated protects you and them from catching and spreading the flu.
The flu vaccine has many benefits. First, the flu vaccine saves lives. A 2017 study in the journal called Pediatrics demonstrated flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by half (51 percent) among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds (65 percent) among healthy children.
According to the CDC, the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. During 2018-2019, for example, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million influenza-associated medical visits, 58,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 influenza-associated deaths. During seasons when the flu vaccine viruses are similar to circulating flu viruses, the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with the flu by 40-60%. Further, the flu vaccine can reduce the number of flu-related hospitalizations.
While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the rest of the Fall and Winter, the CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses will be spreading.
Getting the flu vaccine will not protect you against Covid. However, getting the flu shot as early as possible in the season will help protect you against the flu, thereby reducing the chances that one might contract both the flu and Corona simultaneously. It is safe to get the flu vaccine. It is preferable to do it in your doctor’s office as they can check the records to see if other vaccines are needed and then administer them and report them to the vaccine registry.
During these are turbulent, uncertain times, we can still make healthy choices. Choose to be vaccinated.
As always, daven.