Lyndhurst, NJ — The cooler weather has officially ushered in flu season and the accompanying flu shot debate: to inoculate or not to inoculate.
A recent survey conducted on Vitals.com, a website dedicated to helping patients find doctors that meet their needs, request appointments and prepare for their visit with condition-specific Patient Guides, shows that the general public is still undecided about whether to get the flu shot.
Vitals users were asked “Have you received a flu shot in the last 12 months?” Out of 1,678 respondents, 860 replied that they have received a flu shot in the past year and 818 replied that they have not – an almost even split.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the numbers of flu-associated deaths from the past three decades have been between 3,000 and 49,000 annually – a range that depends on the severity of the strain of flu predominant each year.
So with the clear potential for danger posed by influenza, why do so many people take the chance of not getting vaccinated?
Dr. Leonard Krilov, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and Vice Chairman of Pediatrics at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, NY, attributes the large number of respondents who have not received the flu shot to increasing skepticism of vaccines which, in the case of the flu shot, is unfounded, he said.
Developed in 1945, the flu shot, along with other vaccines, has recently become a lightening rod of controversy. Krilov said the most common misconception he hears about the flu shot is the belief that it can cause the flu, or flu-like symptoms.
“The standard flu shot is not live,” Krilov said, referring to the dead influenza micro-organisms it’s made up of. “You may get a little pain at the injection site, but you cannot get the flu from the vaccine.”
According to Krilov, what many people mistake for the flu after receiving the flu shot is actually just the non-serious side effects like achiness or a low-grade fever that may last one to two days.
In addition to the side effects, Krilov points out that the vaccine takes two weeks to become effective, so it is important to get the shot as soon as it is available. In fact, although the CDC encourages people to receive the vaccine throughout the flu season – from October to May – the agency recommends being inoculated by December.
Krilov believes that more needs to be done to educate the public about the flu being a significant illness. According to the CDC, about 5 to 20 percent of the US population contracts the flu each year and more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of it.
Because of the flu’s unpredictability and potential for severity, the CDC now recommends that everyone aged six months and older should receive the shot – a change from previous recommendations that only those who are at greatest risk for complications and anyone who is regularly in contact with them be vaccinated.
If more people were to abide by the CDC recommendation, Krilov points out that people who are not especially vulnerable to influenza can help to protect those who are – the very young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.
“Besides protecting yourself, you owe it to your loved ones to protect them,” To find a doctor who treats the flu or offers the flu vaccination, visit Vitals.com.
Vitals empowers consumers with the tools and services they need to take charge of their health. Vitals is the only website dedicated to helping patients find doctors that meet their needs, request appointments and prepare for their visit with our condition-specific Patient Guides. Used by over 9 million people each month, Vitals makes it easy for patients to find and connect with quality medical care.