8 Reasons You Need a Flu Shot This Year

Here comes flu season! Maybe you’re thinking you’ll skip your shot this year? Bad idea, say experts. Here’s why:

The flu is miserable. Anyone who has had the flu knows that it makes for a week or longer of fever, cough and body aches. You’ll miss days of work or your other activities. Sometimes you hear people say, “Oh, I had the flu, it wasn’t so bad.” In all likelihood, say doctors, those folks didn’t actually have the flu, but a milder infection.

The complications of the flu can be serious—especially for older adults. Having the flu raises the risk of sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, inflammation of the heart or brain, organ failure and sepsis. It can cause weakness that increases the risk of falls, too.

Each year, 80,000 people in the U.S. die from the flu. This figure comes from University of Illinois microbiology professor Christopher Brooke, who also notes that tens of billions of dollars are spent every year in the U.S. due to influenza.

The shot is covered by Medicare and most private insurances. They aren’t just being generous! The cost of the vaccine is small compared to the healthcare costs you could incur if you developed serious complications from the flu. Talk to your pharmacist to be sure you are covered.

If you get your shot but still get the flu, it’s likely to be a milder case. Some years, the flu shot is more effective than others. We don’t know whether the scientists will knock it out of the ball park this year. But studies show people who are immunized will have a milder, less dangerous case of the flu, even if they come down with it.

When you get your shot, you’re not just protecting yourself. The flu vaccine doesn’t prevent all cases of the flu. A certain number of people, especially seniors and people with weaker immune systems, will still get it. But if you get your shot, that’s one less person likely to spread the virus to them—or to people who cannot be vaccinated, such as babies younger than six months and people with a compromised immune system.

Vaccination could prevent a pandemic. Christopher Brooke has studied the global pandemic of 1918, which killed more than 50 million people. He says that even with today’s modern healthcare and medicines, we could still easily experience another pandemic. Says Brooke, “The world is much more interconnected than it was in 1918, allowing viruses to spread across the globe much more rapidly than they could a century ago.”

Last year’s shot won’t protect you. Brooke notes, “For reasons that we do not understand, other viruses that we target with vaccines are not as good as the flu at evolving to outrun our immune systems.” So while we only need to be vaccinated once or infrequently for illnesses such as shingles or measles, we need a new flu shot ever year.

Source: IlluminAge with information from the University of Illinois. You can read the entire interview with microbiologist Christopher Brooke here.

The information in this article is not intended to replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about which form of the flu shot is recommended for you.