Why Influenza Vaccinations Are Important to Your Family’s Health
According to the Centers for Disease Control, anywhere between 151 and 156 million flu vaccines will be distributed this year within the United States, although not all of these doses will be used. And while this might be considered a large number, keep in mind that there are more than 316 million individuals living in this country, which means that less than 50% of the population will obtain a flu vaccine this year.
Here at Advanced Family Medicine, many of our patients frequently express concern about the effectiveness of immunizations; perhaps because they received a flu vaccine in the past but still came down with the flu. On the other hand, some individuals consciously choose not to get vaccinated against the flu as they’re simply not concerned about acquiring it.
Whatever your reasoning may be though, the importance of getting vaccinated against influenza this year cannot be understated. The flu season typically runs from October through March, so if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, there’s no time like the present! In fact, most insurance companies fully cover influenza vaccinations, so you may not even have any out of pocket expenses.
The Signs & Symptoms of Influenza
In most cases, the flu will start as a runny nose and sneezing, similar to the common cold. However, once the virus overwhelms your immune system, you’ll likely experience fever over 100 F, headache and aching muscles, chills, fatigue, and more.
Once you’ve contracted the influenza virus, you’ll usually start experiencing cold-like symptoms after a few days, with peak symptoms (like those described above) lasting 2-4 days. However, influenza can take a fairly big toll on your body, so you may feel lethargic for a week or more afterward.
Who’s Most At Risk with Influenza?
Although millions of Americans are willing to throw caution to the wind and risk falling ill with influenza at some point during the year, it’s certainly no walk in the park, even for otherwise healthy individuals.
However, for young patients and for those over the age of 65; those who are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, or suffer from chronic illnesses, influenza can quickly change from a moderate disturbance to a life-threatening situation. In fact, almost 50,000 people died from influenza and influenza-related complications in the US during 2010 alone.
What is an Influenza Vaccination?
According to Vaccines.gov, a vaccination is “the injection of a killed or weakened organism that produces immunity in the body against that organism.” So, in the case of influenza, your AFM physician will administer a dead (or severely weakened) strain of influenza into your system (usually strain(s) forecasted to be most prevalent for the year).
Once this occurs, your immune system attacks and easily overwhelms the virus, after which it builds immunity against that strain of influenza. As such, even if you encounter this same strain later in the year, your chances of falling ill again are significantly reduced.
Are Influenza Vaccinations Effective? Are They Safe? Are There Any Side Effects?
When it comes to the effectiveness of influenza vaccinations, the CDC claims there are 2 primary factors that come into play: 1) The age and health of the person being vaccinated, and 2) whether or not this person’s vaccination contained the virus strain they’ve come into contact with. And because either of these conditions can vary widely, so can the effectiveness of influenza vaccinations.
However, while it’s true that immunization isn’t always effective, it is frequently effective, and if you’re vaccinated and still come down with the flu, it is often limited to minimal symptoms.
From a safety perspective, the number one thing to keep in mind is that influenza vaccines are extraordinarily safe, and (regardless of the administration methods; injection, nasal spray, etc.) side effects are mild, including low-grade fever, soreness at the injection site, runny nose, headache, and sore throat.
Is There Any Danger In Not Getting an Influenza Vaccination?
Ultimately, it’s your choice whether or not to get an influenza vaccination. However, even if protecting your health isn’t important, think about those around you such as children, the elderly, and individuals with chronic medical conditions. They certainly don’t want the flu, and they don’t want to get it from you.
So before you decide not to get an influenza vaccination, remember you’re not just ensuring your health, but the health of others as well.
How Can You Get Immunized Against Influenza?
The easiest way to obtain your flu vaccine is by calling the friendly staff here at Advanced Family Medicine today at (425) 453-6838. After you schedule your appointment, we can have you in and out of our office in no time, and you can be one step closer to a happy, healthy 2015!