Flu shots worthwhile, easy

Published 10:16 am Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Mankato Free Press

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency

OK, flu shot naysayers, you have your ammunition. Get it over with.

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Yes, you know lots of people who got the flu shot last year, and they got the flu anyway. Yes, you know infectious disease experts swung and missed and that the 2014 vaccine didn’t focus on the dominant strain. And yes, you know that coming up with a new vaccine is sort of a crapshoot and health officials will admit as much.

But set that aside and consider this: Flu shots save lives every year, even in the years when the strains in the vaccine aren’t a perfect match. On average, flu kills about 24,000 people a year in the U.S., says the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

The risk of flu and its complications are real and the benefits of an effective vaccine are obvious.

If you got a flu shot last year and still got the flu, doctors and nurses will tell you there is a good chance your symptoms might not have been as severe as they would have had you not gotten immunized at all. The flu can knock ordinarily healthy people down for a good week or more. The shot might have shortened the duration of your illness.

And although there are never any guarantees that the strains used in a new vaccine will exactly match the strains that pop up during the new flu season, state health authorities say this season’s flu vaccine will be more effective than last year, Minnesota Public Radio reports. So we can hope that prediction is on the money.

Here’s the thing, though. There’s nothing to lose in getting immunized. It’s a myth that the vaccine makes you sick; the shot is composed of portions of inactivated flu and doesn’t actually cause the flu. And the immunizations are widely available, are usually covered by insurance or are available for free in certain programs. Unless your doctor advises against it, you should be able to get a shot easily.

Local mass immunization clinics are going to be scheduled for October, pharmacies and health clinics already are vaccinating customers, and some workplaces are offering employees shots. Getting immunized is so easy. Remember, the flu is highly contagious. Just take the time to not only protect yourself, but also those in the at-risk population who might not be able to fight off the flu as easily as you.