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: To Get the Flu Shot or Not: Make Sure Your Choice is an Educated One

To Get the Flu Shot or Not: Make Sure Your Choice is an Educated One

Managing Editor

You may have missed it among all the festivities surrounding the holidays, but we've got ourselves a flu epidemic. Late last month, as many of us were preparing to ring in 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that this year's flu season has crossed the threshold into epidemic territory.

As of December 31, 15 children in the United States had died from the flu, and the number of states reporting high rates of the flu nearly doubled in the last week of the year from 13 to 22. However, it's important to maintain perspective and understand that this is pretty typical. The United States often experiences a flu epidemic. According to Erin Burns, a  health communications specialist with the Influenza Division at the CDC, "It is a bit early to make any kind of characterization about pediatric deaths this season, but from looking at the curve going back  to 2011 to 2012, it doesn't seem like anything unusual is happening."  

Nevertheless, as flu season kicks into high gear, now is as good a time as any to talk about flu prevention--mainly, the flu shot. There's been a lot of talk about how this year's flu shot is not a good match for the strain of the virus that seems to be affecting the most people. However, experts assert that because there are many strains of the flu virus, getting vaccinated remains a good idea and "that even if the shot doesn't match up exactly with all strains of the virus, it may lessen the symptoms and duration of illness."

In the fast majority of cases, getting the flu shot is a good idea. The CDC recommends the flu shot for anyone 6 months of age and older with rare exception. You should talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about receiving the flu shot.

But…I have a confession to make. I didn't get the flu shot this year. I didn't get the flu shot last year. I've actually never gotten the flu shot. And I've never gotten the flu. My mother is 74 years old. No flu shot for her and rarely does she even get the common cold. I like to chalk it up to genetics. I have a large family. We top out at 40 with just my sisters and our respective families. I can count on one hand the official cases of flu in our family across the past three decades of my life.

Now, before you start arguing that ifI ever got the flu, I'd change my tune and start advocating for the flu shot. You'd be wrong. My tune has never changed. As a health communicator, I strongly advocate for people getting the flu shot. I think it's a smart thing to do. I'm all for herd immunity. I'm also pro-vaccination. Getting the flu shot is just not something that I choose to do for myself. I wash my hands, stay home when I'm sick, and avoid shaking hands during the peak of cold and flu season. You have your own choice to make. Make it wisely by doing your research, talking to your doctor, and deciding if it's the right decision for your family.

Here's to good health and flu-free months for all of us! 

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
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