5 Reasons You Should Get a Flu Shot Every Year (Even If You Never Get the Flu)

It’s almost flu season, the time of year when flu viruses are circulating at higher than normal levels in the U.S. It can begin as early as October, and go as late as May. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older to get vaccinated at some point during flu season—yet we all know people who shrug their shoulders and say, “eh, I never get the flu. It’s not worth my time.”

In fact, only 42.2% of adults received their flu vaccination during the 2014-2015 season. That annual shot may seem like an afterthought, but it’s vital to your health, and to the health of the public at large. Here’s why:

  • It’s Gross To start, having the flu is just nasty. If you get it, your best case scenario is a combination of fever, sores, aches, chills, and stomach issues. It will make you less productive at work and will put a damper on your social life. That’s reason enough to do everything you can to prevent it.
  • It’s Fatal (Sometimes) Don’t forget: The flu can put you in the hospital or, worse yet, be fatal. The outcome is rare for young, healthy people, but it’s possible. Why risk it?
  • It Protects Others Even if you aren’t at risk personally, you can protect others by getting your flu shot. A whopping 90 percent of flu deaths are those 65 or older; widespread vaccination protects this group. Do it for your grandma.
  • It Lessons Fatalities Flu vaccinations effectively reduce severe outcomes. In the 2011-2012 flu season, vaccines were associated with a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages, and a 77 percent reduction among adults 50 years of age and older.
  • It’s Different Every Year Yeah, it’s annoying to get a flu shot every year. But it’s essential for two reasons: The antibodies produced in your body from the vaccine decline as time goes on, so the shot is less likely to protect you a year after receiving it.  And flu viruses mutate rapidly. Because of this, the formulation of the vaccines is reviewed each year and updated to protect against new strains. An annual shot is necessary to keep a fever, or worse, from ruining your holidays.

Because the flu is so nasty and spreads so quickly, the CDC and healthcare professionals urge people to be vaccinated as early as possible. Ideally, you should be vaccinated by October, because the shot takes two weeks before it is fully effective. A lot of people don’t get the shot during this initial push, and they think it’s too late. But the shot will be offered at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, and other healthcare providers throughout flu season; it’s never too late. Not being immunized early is no reason to sit out the whole year. Most flu seasons peak in January or later, so there is plenty of time to get the shot and be protected against the worst of it.

The flu shot is a crucial part of your health regimen. If you have a regular doctor or nurse, talk to them about getting one ASAP.  If you don’t see a healthcare professional regularly, there are a lot of other options. Pharmacies, urgent care clinics, and the health centers at your college or workplace are good places to look. Any option works as long as you get the shot.

Vaccines Every College Student Needs Before the First Day of Class

study-763571_1280Books, furniture, student ID…vaccines? If you’re heading to college for the first time, immunizations should be at the top of your to-do list. College students live in close quarters, and young adults are also due for boosters on many vaccines they received during childhood. Make sure you’re up to date on the CDC’s entire recommended schedule by talking with a healthcare professional. Start by asking about these five:

Meningococcal
This vaccine protects against bacterial meningitis, which inflames the protective membrane around the brain and spinal chord and can have life threatening consequences. The disease can be spread when people are in close quarters, so if it’s your first year on a college campus, definitely make sure you’ve received this vaccine. If you already received it as a child, you’re not off the hook; you should get a booster if you got the shot before your 16th birthday. 

 

Tdap
This vaccine protects against, tetanus, diptheria, and pertussis (whooping cough), and the CDC recommends it for kids, adults, and pregnant women during the third trimester. One dose of Tdap is routinely given at age 11 or 12. If you didn’t get Tdap then, you should get it as soon as possible. A Td vaccine protects against tetanus and diptheria, and a booster is recommended for every 10 years. Students that took time off between high school and college may be due for their next dose.

 

HPV
If you did not get all three doses of this immunization at 11 or 12, when the CDC recommends it, you should be sure to get it before starting college. The vaccine protects against cervical cancer in women and cancer of the throat, anus, and penis in men, but only 34.4 percent of adolescent girls and 20.1 percent of adolescent boys have received all three doses. Though it’s most effective when administered as a preteen, women under 27 and men under 22 should still receive the vaccine. If you’re outside that age range, you should discuss your options with a healthcare professional.

 

Flu shot
The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone. College students are especially vulnerable to the illness; you’ll be living in close quarters, sharing bathrooms and workout facilities, and likely not getting enough sleep. But there’s good news: The flu vaccine works best among healthy young adults. If you stay up to date you’ll keep that missed class and social time to a minimum.

 

Hepatitis B
Hepatitis B can result in long-term consequences for your liver. It’s a blood-borne illness, so it can be transmitted through contact with an infected person’s blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Again, the close quarters rule applies; there’s simply a greater chance of this happening on a college campus, so prevention is key. Most babies receive the Hep B vaccine before leaving the hospital, but if you did not receive it as a baby, you will want to discuss with your doctor. 

 

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4 Ways You Can Become a Vaccine Advocate (And Why It Matters) 

Travel Health: 4 Immunizations You Need Before that Big European Vacation

Vaccines You Need Before Visiting a Newborn

Your Weekly Dose: August 6, 2015

A (not-for-profit!) malaria vaccine is on its way, the Surgeon General speaks out about the efficacy of vaccines, and 2015 flu vaccines are on the way. Plus: eight must-know facts about immunizations.

The World’s First Malaria Vaccine is Coming: This might be the best news we’ve heard all week. A malaria vaccine is on its way, and it will be entirely not-for-profit. How’s that for an answer to prayers? [Good]

Because, #VaccinesWork: Aggressive measles vaccination in Amish communities in 2014 reduced the transmission of measles dramatically—proving once again that vaccines do, indeed work. [PR Newswire]

The Surgeon General Responds: Dr. Vivek Murphy spoke out about a petition in opposition of SB277: “We all have a role to play. Vaccinations are one of the great triumphs of science and public policy, and we should make their benefits available to everyone.” [Whitehouse.gov]

2015 Flu Vaccines Are Ready: The U.K.-based drug-maker GlaxoSmithKline started shipping its flu vaccines to US pharmacies this week—meaning it’s just about time to schedule your flu vaccine appointment. [Modern Healthcare]

California Paves The WayCalifornia’s stringent new vaccination law (it prohibits religious and personal-belief vaccine exemptions) may serve as the model for legislatures around the country. [Patch]

8 Facts You Must Know About Vaccines: Immunizations prevent 2.5 million deaths per year, access to vaccines is difficult in many countries, and we’re losing money by not vaccinating every single eligible child. [Upworthy]

4 Ways You Can Become a Vaccine Advocate (And Why It Matters)

Your immunizations are up to date. Your kids are on track to receive all of their required and recommended vaccines before school starts. You’ve even scheduled your 2015-2016 flu shot appointments (you overachiever, you).

Your job is done, right? Not so fast.

We applaud you for taking the necessary steps to protect your family from preventable diseases, but there’s even more we can all do to support healthy immunization practices and policies nationwide. Thanks to social media, local immunization coalitions, and good old-fashioned email writing, it’s easier than ever to become a pro-vaccine advocate—in honor of National Immunization Awareness Month, here are five easy ways that you, too, can advocate to make these life-saving medicines broadly available and easily accessible.

Together, let’s prevent what’s preventable.

Participate in National Immunization Awareness Month: Since 2007, the Center for Disease Control has dubbed August National Immunization Awareness Month. The annual campaign educates the public on the importance of vaccines and invites all of us to become community advocates for vaccine awareness and utilization. The easiest way to join in the conversation? Follow #NIAM on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and amplify the messages, facts, and info the CDC and The Immunization Partnership send out.

Work With Your Local Immunization Coalition: Contact your local immunization coalition (nearly every state has one) to find out how they’re participating in National Immunization Awareness Month. Get involved on a grassroots level to make a difference where it matters most to you—right at home.

Engage Your Legislators: You don’t have to be a lobbyist or a doctor or even old enough to vote to ask your congressmen to support vaccine-positive bills. Start by registering for The Immunization Partnership’s legislative alerts, which track immunization laws and policies around Texas. Then peruse our legislative resources, a collection of guides that make it simple (and effective) to support pro-vaccine bills—including sample thank you notes, typical scripts for legislative meetings, and how-tos for finding and contacting your local representatives.

Educate Yourself: Seek out the many educational programs, conferences, and webinars that immunization coalitions and nonprofits (including The Immunization Partnership!) host throughout the year. Can’t sneak away during your lunch hour? Start by perusing TIP’s archived webinars and lunch ‘n’ learns on your own time. They cover a number of actionable topics, including tips for responding to vaccine-hesitant parents, tools for working with legislators, and practical strategies for improving HPV vaccination rates in your community.

Vaccines You Need Before Visiting a Newborn

Courtesy of Ruebus Designs on Etsy.

Courtesy of Ruebus Designs on Etsy.

Meeting a friend or relative’s newborn soon? In all the excitement, it’s easy to forget that newborns will not receive certain vaccinations until they are a bit older. You need to think about your immunizations so you don’t expose your new favorite person to infectious diseases.

Before meeting that bundle of joy, chat with a healthcare provider and make sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccination schedule. Here are a few to be aware of.

TDAP
Because it was only approved in 2005, many people aren’t aware they need this vaccine. Even if you have received the shot, a booster is required every 10 years. TDAP protects against three diseases: tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (or whooping cough). The last one is especially dangerous for newborns; they’re at a higher risk for life-threatening complications from whooping cough than any other demographic.

Measles, Mumps, Rubella
Newborns receive the first dose of most vaccines around one or two months, but the first MMR dose isn’t recommended until twelve months; that’s a long time to be vulnerable. With the recent spike in measles outbreaks, it’s more important than ever to be up to date on this vaccine.

Influenza
This is another dose most infants don’t get until six months. Many adults skip their flu shot (adherence was only 46.2% during the 2014-2015 flu season), but this is one of the reasons it’s so important to get your annual dose. Newborns are at high risk for life threatening complications from the flu, and you want to avoid passing it on to them.

Varicella
This shot protects against the chicken pox, but even if you’ve already had the chickenpox, make sure you’re up to date. You may be immune to the disease, but you could still carry it and pass it on to the child. This immunization isn’t recommended until twelve months, so infants are vulnerable to the illness for an especially long time.

Meningococcal
This is a trio of shots that protect against bacterial meningitis. The first dose isn’t recommended for children until they’re 11 years old; infants have a higher risk than any other group of developing a severe infection. These two facts mean one thing for you: Make sure you’re up to date on these immunizations. You’ll protect not only infants but also all kids who can’t be immunized yet.

Travel Health: Immunizations You Need Before That Big European Vacation

A man on a bridge in Venice, Italy

You’ve booked the flights and reserved the hotels, but are your vaccinations up to date?  Photo credit: Unsplash/3828 images

Heading to Europe this summer? It’s easy to think that because developed countries in Europe have similar vaccine recommendations to the U.S., you can skip a doctor’s visit before that big trip. But that’s not necessarily true. Even if you got all your shots as a kid, you still might need boosters as an adult—especially because vaccine adherence is lower in some European countries than it is stateside.

Your game plan? Chat with a healthcare provider, make sure you’re up to date on your routine vaccination schedule, and check if any additional vaccinations are recommended for your vacation destinations. Here are a few to ask about:

Measles
Outbreaks of the measles have been making headlines here lately, but the problem is even worse in Europe. There were 3,840 cases of measles in Europe last year. Germany and Italy have particularly high rates of the disease. Regardless of your destination, make sure your MMR status is up to date before you leave.

TDAP
The TDAP vaccine was only licensed in 2005, so there’s a good chance you missed it as a kid.  Even if you did get it, you need a booster dose every 10 years. The vaccine has become a part of the CDC’s recommended vaccination schedule, so get it before you leave.

Hepatitis A
Though risk for Hep A is low in most of Europe, the CDC cautions that outbreaks can occur anywhere in the world, and there is always the risk of contracting the disease through contaminated food or water. In some European destinations (Croatia and the Czech Republic among them), the risk is higher than in the U.S.; the CDC recommends the vaccine for most travelers in those places.

Flu
This is one major difference between European and American vaccine recommendations: An annual flu shot is recommended for all adults in the U.S, but not a single European country does the same. You don’t want to spend your vacation stuck in bed with the chills; get that flu shot before you go.

Typhoid, polio, yellow fever, rabies
Because these diseases are present in less developed areas, a lot of people don’t think of them when they’re going to Europe; but the CDC recommends them for many destinations in Eastern Europe. You should also ask about these immunizations if you’ll be participating in outdoor activities, are taking an extended trip, or will be staying with locals. Check this CDC resource to see if it’s recommended for your destination.

Your Weekly Dose 7.14: All the Vaccine News You Missed

Nationwide, parents are more supportive of vaccines than just a year ago; the US reports its first measles death in more than a decade; and  a vaccine for dengue is closer than you think. Bonus: Elmo and the Surgeon General chat vaccines.

Elmo Gets a Check-UpWatch the Surgeon General calm down an adorably nervous Elmo as he gets his first vaccinations (with a little help from TSwift). [The Daily Dot

Hope for Dengue Vaccine: A new antibody discovery offers hope for a vaccine to prevent dengue, the sometimes-fatal mosquito-borne virus that affects 390 million people each year. [Medical News today]

All It Takes Is One (Mutation): Just one mutation decreased the effectiveness of last year’s flu vaccine. Here’s how scientists are gearing up to make this season’s dose even more effective. [Healthline]

First Recorded Measles Death: The US marked its first measles death in 12 years last week, when an autopsy confirmed a woman in Washington State died from the disease.

Vaccine Attitudes Changing: In a recent study, 34 percent of parents think vaccines have more of an impact than they did a year ago—and 35 percent support more stringent vaccination requirements in schools and daycares. [C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital]

Free Meningitis Vaccines in ChicagoMore than 45 Chicago-area clinics and pharmacies (including Walgreens) are offering free meningitis vaccines following an outbreak of the disease last month. [Chicago Tribune]

Want to Work in Vaccines? 4 Careers That Really Make a Difference

One reason to work in vaccines? You’ll make a difference in the lives of countless parents, children, and students around the world. Another reason? “Disease Detective” is a very cool (and very real) job title. Whatever your motivation—no judgment here—these are four career paths that have a significant impact in the vaccine field.

Solve the Outbreak game

Take a crack at being a Disease Detective by playing the CDC’s Solve the Outbreak game

Disease Detective
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Officers, a.k.a. “disease detectives,” track a disease outbreak back to its source, identifying everyone who may have been exposed along the way. Their work allows public health workers to quarantine, vaccinate, and treat those exposed as needed. Disease detectives were especially important to limiting the impact of the recent measles outbreak, and they’re vital to public health whenever an infectious disease breaks out.

Nurse
Nurses are on the front lines of immunizations. Not only do they administer many vaccines, they are some of the most important advocates in the immunization community. Nurses have a tremendous amount of one-on-one time with patients; this gives them the unique opportunity to advise patients on recommended immunizations, reassure hesitant parents about vaccine safety, and discuss any other concerns in-person with patients.

Vaccine Research and Development
There are two major branches of vaccine research: Basic science researchers and clinical science researchers. Basic researchers look at the physical properties of disease-causing microbes—they’re working to understand how these physical properties can be used in the body to produce immunity against specific diseases. Clinical researchers use that knowledge to develop vaccines and test them for safety and effectiveness, so that they can eventually be administered to the general public.

Development Director
Many organizations involved in immunization advocacy (like us!) are not-for-profits that rely on fundraising to support their efforts. Development Directors are at the forefront of this, making sure immunization organizations have the funds they need to do their life-saving work. The job involves everything from organizing philanthropic events to securing donations from foundations, individuals, and the government. Consider it a sales job, but the product you’re selling is public health and an end to needless suffering.

Your Weekly Dose 6.27: All the Vaccine News You Missed

California passes a landmark vaccine mandate, the CDC issues a cautious meningitis recommendation, and pre-cancerous lesions show a steep decline thanks in part to the HPV vaccine. Plus: A father’s moving testimony supports California’s stricter vaccine regulations.

SB277 Passes: The California assembly approved a bill that would end students’ vaccine exemptions for personal or religious beliefs—making it one of the nation’s strictest vaccine regulations. [LA Times]

A Father’s Moving Testimony: Among the many who spoke out in support of SB277? Carl Krewitt, father of a 7-year-old leukemia survivor who could not be vaccinated. “I know what fear is because I was in the hospital with a kid whose odds of survival were pretty low. But what scared me more than the threat of disease was the misinformation” about vaccines. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

CDC Panel Cautious on New Meningitis Vaccine Recommendation: A panel of health experts recommended a limited use of the relatively new meningitis (type b) vaccine. While the recommendation is a step forward, it fell short of a stronger recommendation for routine administration wanted by many of the parents and patients who testified in front of the panel. [NY Times]

Pre-Cancerous Cervical Lesions Decline: Although we won’t have direct proof for years that HPV vaccination can prevent cervical cancers, we’re seeing a drop in the number of young women with pre-cancerous cervical lesions — and that’s a great sign! [Health Day]

5 Trustworthy Vaccine Facebook Accounts to Like Now

Last week we told you about 5 great Twitter accounts to follow for reliable and useful immunization information. Another great place to connect with the immunization community? Facebook. We love these five immunization-related accounts for their important insights, timely news items, and (most importantly) accurate information. Like them now!

Voices For Vaccines: Voices for Vaccines is a group of parents dedicated to providing clear, science-based information on vaccines to help all parents make informed decisions for their children. The Facebook page provides useful, effective strategies for interacting with people who might have questions or concerns about vaccines on social media, plus insight into timely legislation like SB277, the California bill that would require all students to be vaccinated.

Nurses Who Vaccinate: Nurses Who Vaccinate’s goal is to enable healthcare professionals to be reliable, informed vaccine advocates. But the page is a great resource even if you don’t work in healthcare. Check here for updates on global news, such as the MERS outbreak in South Korea, practical information on keeping your vaccine status up to date, and stories showing the life-saving impact of immunizations around the world.

Immunize Colorado: This page is run by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, but it’s a fantastic resource no matter where you live. Immunize Colorado keeps its fans in the loop on a broad range of immunization topics. Like the page to stay up-to-date on immunization legislation and advocacy, learn about your own vaccine status, and find other immunization organizations doing important work globally.

Sabin Vaccine Institute: “We’re advocates for a world free of needless suffering” reads Sabin’s About section, and it sums this organization up pretty well. These scientists know how important vaccines are to improving public health, and they want to educate the public. The group is globally focused, so expect updates on immunization news from around the world.

Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance: Gavi focuses on the many people in developing countries who don’t have access to vaccines at all. The aim: to increase access to immunization in underdeveloped communities around the world.  Their Facebook page gives detailed information about their important work. We especially love their photos and videos, highlighting the people who directly benefit from vaccine access in developing countries.

Looking for more? Check to see if your area’s immunization coalition has a Facebook account for immunization-related news and events in your local community.