Do I Need a Flu Shot?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. set a goal of having at least 90% of Americans age 50 and above to receive a flu vaccine. That is a BIG goal! Maybe too big… That goal has not been met in one state even though it is getting easier and easier to get a vaccine. 

You have probably heard the advertisements on radio, TV, at the shopping mall, grocery store, drug stores and super discount stores.

“Flu Shots — $25”

Flu shots are being offered in a number of previous unconventional locations. Before, you had to get a flu vaccine at your doctor’s office or in the PPO’s office. Now, in addition to traditional outlets like your doctor’s office, hospital, county health department, and walk-in clinics, you can get a flu shot at most chain drug stores, super discounter centers like Wal-Mart, grocery stores Kroger & Publix here in the southeast…obviously other brands elsewhere and even at your office!

But do I need a flu shot?

Now is a great time to get a flu vaccine shot since the flu season can begin as early as October and last throughout the winter here in the northern hemisphere. With international travel being what it is, the flu is always somewhere…someone exposed could travel here any time of year. Thinking about how fast something can be spread, I think about the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” philosophy. This simple trivia game states that everyone is just 5 people removed from anyone else. Based on the ‘degrees of separation’, you could theoretically come in contact tomorrow with someone and through five ‘degrees’ or other people contact someone that was exposed to a person carrying the flu virus.

Whether you believe in the “Six Degrees of Separation” or not, there is no argument — the flu is a highly contagious disease and spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or simply touching a surface previously touched by someone infected.

It takes approximately two weeks for the immunization’s protection to become effective. It is wise to check with your doctor to ensure that there is no reason for you to avoid the vaccine. While the flu vaccine is safe and effective for most people, there are some persons for whom the vaccine is not recommended such as anyone with a previous reaction to a flu vaccine, have an allergy to chicken eggs of anyone who has had Guillian-Barré syndrome. If you currently have an illness with a fever, you should wait until the fever has stopped and you feel completely better.

If you decide not to get the shot, washing your hands frequently is about the best protection you have. If you decide to get the flu vaccine, keep in mind that the flu mutates from year to year. You will need to get another immunization when other strains are discovered. Even if you do not get a flu shot each year, the previous year’s vaccine will offer some, albeit very little to some protection over someone that was not immunized.