Are You Fully Armed This Flu Season?

By Léo Washburn in Opinion

The Flu

Fall is here and with it comes some reliable rituals. Mornings cool enough to reach for that hoodie. A full load of classes to take you in the direction of your dreams. There is a palpable adrenaline rush even as we stand in long lines at the bookstore or to meet with an advisor.

Amid all the excitement a person next to you sneezes and wipes their nose.

Yet another fall routine: the flu.

More is necessary than averting your gaze, praying all they have is an allergy.

The typical advice is to eat well, get plenty of rest, wash your hands frequently.

And get your flu shot.

We can pretty much guarantee the first two admonitions will fall by the wayside–we are students after all. As far as hygiene goes, we do what we can, but who knows what germs were left behind on that table by the student who sat there during the last class.

So that leaves getting vaccinated.

While you’re getting used to your new schedule, before it gets even more intense in the coming weeks, stop by Health Services or your local pharmacy and get your flu shot.

There has been an ongoing debate about vaccination for about 300 years.

The truth is there is not a single peer-reviewed scholarly study that validates any of the anti-vaxxer (people opposed to vaccination) claims. Not one.

You do not get the flu from the vaccine. You may get a few symptoms, but they are mild compared to how bad the actual illness can be. According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur.

No vaccination is 100 percent certain to produce immunity in every individual. Additionally, not everyone in a society can be vaccinated.

Vaccinations work by stimulating a very mild reaction to a weakened virus. Those with compromised immune systems may not be able to tolerate this. These groups depend on “herd immunity,” the phenomenon in which, if the percentage of those immunized is high enough in a population, those who are not immunized are better protected.

Some anti-vaxxers take advantage of this concept. They avoid getting vaccinated, assuming so many others will, they won’t need to worry about it. That idea actually compromises how herd immunity works, leaving more opportunities for disease to spread.

According to the CDC, the flu shot does more than minimize your risk for getting the flu and protect the people around you. It may make your experience milder if you do get sick and can reduce the risk of more serious flu complications such as pneumonia.

The CDC cites one study that concluded the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admissions by 74 percent during 2010 to 2012.  Another study found on their website showed that flu vaccination was associated with a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and a 77 percent reduction among adults 50 years of age and older during the same time period.

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.

Are vaccinations 100 percent safe? No. Serious allergic reactions to flu vaccines are very rare. If they do occur, it is usually within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination. While these reactions can be life-threatening, effective treatments are available.

How safe is anything in life? The very fact we are alive inherently carries with it the fact that at any given moment we could die. Everyday activities can be deadly. Each year 350 people die in bath- or shower-related accidents while maintaining good hygiene. 200 choke on the food they need to keep their bodies alive. We don’t consider things such as these to be unsafe. It must be pointed out as well that abstaining from these activities does not put others’ lives in jeopardy.

So do yourself a favor. Do us all a favor and get your flu shot. And while you are at it, you might as well bring yourself up-to-date on a few other vaccines. When was the last time you were immunized for tetanus or whooping cough?

More information can be obtained by going to the CDC website http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ or talking to your physician or pharmacist.

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