Flu Shots: Not Everyone on Board
< Oct. 13, 2010 > -- Many Americans don't plan to get a flu shot this fall - even though the vaccine offers the best protection against seasonal influenza.
A telephone survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) of more than 1,000 adults found that 43 percent of them will pass up getting the flu vaccine this year. That's sobering news for infectious disease experts.
"Flu is serious," says Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., director of the CDC. "Every year, millions of people get sick, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized, and thousands of people died from influenza."
This year, new CDC guidelines urge all children over 6 months of age and all adults to get a flu shot. The current vaccine protects against three strains of the flu virus, including the H1N1 pandemic flu that caused a major outbreak in the U.S. last season.
Many people who decide against a flu shot have been swayed by myths about the vaccine, says Marc Siegel, M.D., associate professor of medicine at New York University and a flu expert. "The fear of the vaccine outweighs the fear of the disease, and that's a huge mistake," he says.
About half of those who say they won't get a flu shot worry that the vaccine is harmful, the NFID survey found. Sixty-two percent believe that the vaccine causes the flu (it doesn't) or causes side effects. Forty-eight percent believe the vaccine isn't effective. And 69 percent say they are healthy so getting the flu is no big deal.
Yet the flu vaccine is a proven way to prevent the flu, the CDC says. Any side effects from the vaccine are usually mild.
An important factor in deciding to get a flu shot is a doctor's recommendation, the survey found. Other factors were a desire to protect family members and to avoid being sick for a week. Sixty-five percent of mothers plan to get their children vaccinated against the flu.
Vaccine supplies are plentiful this year, the CDC says.
"More than 119 million doses (of flu vaccine) have already been distributed in the United States," says Daniel Jernigan, M.D., deputy director of the CDC's influenza division. "That's more than 30 million more doses than were distributed by this time last year."
For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this website.
Now's the Time for Protection
Influenza - the flu - is a highly contagious respiratory tract infection that can make you feel miserable. Symptoms come on suddenly and include fever, muscle aches, sore throat, and a cough.
The best time to get a flu shot is in the early fall, when the flu vaccine first becomes available in your community. The vaccine comes in two forms: as a flu shot and as a nasal spray. The nasal spray is recommended for healthy people ages 2 through 49. Anyone ages 6 months and older can get the vaccine as a shot.
Although the CDC recommends the vaccine for all Americans ages 6 months and older, it's especially important for these groups:
To find out where the vaccine is available locally, visit Flu.gov's flu vaccine finder link listed below.
Always consult your physician for more information.
(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)