Friday, October 10, 2014

Flu Vaccine

Good Hope Family Physicians
Flu Vaccine—our view

Think about this: the people who at highest risk to die from the flu are the very old, the very young, and people with health problems. The reason they have a harder time with flu is because their immune systems don’t work as well as they should. For that same reason, when we vaccinate them for flu, their immune systems don’t make antibodies well either, so the flu vaccine doesn’t work as well for them as it does for healthy people. In the previous year’s flu season, the flu vaccine only had 10% effectiveness in the over-65 population. 10%!! If we could only choose to vaccinate healthy people or high-risk people, we might actually choose the healthy people, because if they don’t get sick, they don’t pass it to the high risk people. Fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice. So if you are low risk, please think about getting flu vaccine to protect your loved ones or others who are at higher risk.

For this reason, this year’s flu vaccine for those over 65 is a stronger vaccine.

“But you can get the flu from the flu vaccine” is a common response.  No, what is actually happening is that when the immune system is asked to really crank up production of antibodies, you can feel “flu-like symptoms” of body aches, fever, fatigue, etc. When these symptoms occur with flu disease or any other infection, it is your body’s immune response to the infection causing these symptoms, not the germ itself. Who knows, maybe having these symptoms is a good thing as your immune system is clearly responding to the vaccine. And having a few days of some aching is much better than being knocked down for a week with flu disease, or worse yet, dying from flu.

It is important that you know what influenza is. It is NOT vomiting and diarrhea, which is referred to as “stomach flu” but is not influenza at all. Influenza is fever, cough, body aches, fatigue (“like you were hit by a truck”), congestion, etc.

“But I’ve never gotten the flu before” is also a common response. The average healthy person gets flu once every 7 years, and it might be a mild case but doesn’t mean you won’t ever get a bad case. Don’t you wear your seatbelt to protect yourself from something bad which hasn’t happened? And if you feel this way, re-read paragraph #1.

There are so many myths about influenza and vaccines in general, which is really sad, because vaccines today are very safe and save lives. But they are a victim of their success; since we use them widely, we don’t see those illnesses very much and we underestimate how useful and important they still are.

Please ask questions if you have further concerns.

The Providers at Good Hope Family Physicians, PinnacleHealth Medical Group


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