By Ohad Sheffy, MD –
Influenza is a contagious disease that affects millions of people each year, hospitalizing hundreds of thousands and killing tens of thousands (CDC.org). To prevent the spread of the flu, it’s highly recommended to receive an annual vaccine, which contains antibodies to help fight against infection. While the flu and the vaccination have been around for many years, the importance of the vaccine is a current point of discussion due to the similarities the disease shares with Covid-19.
With a worldwide pandemic running rampant, the worst place to be is in a hospital, especially if you’re ill with the flu and your immune system isn’t at its strongest. The flu and Covid-19 share very similar symptoms and health effects in people. The importance of the flu vaccine derives from the number of lives and morbidity that can be saved/prevented just by receiving the shot. While it’s only 50-60% effective, it is the best weapon developed with little side effects. Each year, it’s reported that over 30,000 to 40,000 people die from influenza, which means this vaccination saves more than 15,000 to 20,000 lives. For those that contract the disease, the only treatment is staying home, resting, and, if caught in time, taking Tamiflu, which may shorten your symptoms by a day.
Annual vaccinations should be taken in mid-September, as flu season begins in October and is at its highest in November/December. It takes 2 to 3 weeks for your body to develop a full response to the vaccine until you’re fully protected. The flu vaccination is needed yearly based on the activity in the Southern Hemisphere. Research guides us to determine which of the many subtypes are more prevalent, and vaccinations are concocted for the Northern Hemisphere. The virus mutates every year, so each season could consist of a different composition of new viruses. For those who have received a shot every year, the added benefit is partial immunity if some subtype was in previous vaccinations.
Many people may be timid about going to any clinic facility, in fear of catching Covid-19, let alone the flu, for a common wellness check. However, there are many ways clinics are distributing the vaccine. Some may provide a drive-thru option, where patients can stay in their vehicles and drive up to a nurse in the parking lot one at a time. Another more common option is making an appointment and waiting in your vehicle until the appointment time. This exposure would only last 5 to 15 minutes, as a nurse would simply need to administer the shot, maybe wait a few minutes to be sure you don’t exhibit allergic reactions, and you’re on your way.
Receiving your annual flu shot not only protects you from the virus, it protects your loved ones as well. It is a social benefit for everyone to receive their vaccine and lessen the spread of disease.
Ohad Sheffy, MD, is a Board certified primary care doctor with over a decade of experience in family medicine at TPMG. He is dedicated to building trusted relationships with his patients and helping them establish their healthcare needs and goals. mytpmg.com