Preventive care Your Health & Wellness

Is the flu shot worth it?

[Editor’s note: This season, the CDC is only recommending injectable flu vaccines. And, it is recommending Fluzone high-dose flu shots or FLUAD, for people 65 and older.]

My patients often ask me if they should get a flu shot. My answer is yes.  Absolutely, yes. And, yes, I get the flu shot and so does my 4 year-old daughter. The flu shot works.  And, it’s safe.  If you don’t want to catch the flu, you should get the flu shot. The flu virus is …a virus.

Antibiotics will not help you if you get the flu. The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu shot.The Centers for Disease Control, the government agency that studies disease, recommends the flu shot for anyone over 6 months old. So, if you’re over 65, you should absolutely get the flu shot. The only reason not to get they flu shot is if you are allergic to the vaccine or have other contraindications.  Most people are not allergic to it, but if for any reason you think you could be, talk to your doctor.

I tell my patients to get the flu vaccine for two reasons: to protect themselves and to protect others. Consider it your civic duty.  If almost everyone gets the flu shot, the population as a whole becomes less susceptible. A study in Japan, demonstrated that with higher childhood vaccination rates, elderly mortality decreased. Why? Fewer kids got the flu and it could not spread as widely to others.

So you know, the flu vaccine cannot and will not give you the flu…or a cold for that matter. They are different viruses. Bad luck is the only reason you might get the flu right after you get vaccinated because you don’t yet have the immunity. Or you may get a cold around the same time by chance.  But, there are no real side effects according to the research.  You would have the same reaction to a salt-water solution as you would from a flu shot.

OK. Here’s the rub.  Even if you get the flu shot, you still might get the flu.  That’s because occasionally, the flu vaccine does not match the seasonal flu type. If you get a type that is not in the vaccine, you might catch the flu. If the vaccine matches the seasonal flu type, as it generally does, you should not get the flu.  But, if your immune system is not good, the flu shot is less effective but still beneficial.You really don’t want to get the flu. It could be very bad for your health. Older adults are at an increased risk of developing flu-related health problems, including pneumonia as well as worsening chronic health problems. If you are over 65, you should seek medical advice if you get the flu. You might need antivirals because of age-related risks.

Help yourself and your community and get a flu shot. And, if you have Medicare, Medicare covers it.

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