Let’s play the “what if” game. What if you decided not receive your annual influenza (flu) vaccination? And what if you were one of the 5 to 20 percent of Americans who are diagnosed with the flu every year? And what if you then fell into the estimated 200,000 who develop a flu-related complication ranging from an ear or sinus infection to pneumonia or bronchitis? And to add one more layer onto this game, what if you were then bunched in with the estimated 36,000 Americans who lose their life each year to this vaccine-preventable disease? Does that sound like a game worth playing?
Foregoing recommended vaccinations is a gamble, plain and simple. Deciding not to vaccinate (whether it be for yourself or your children) does not guarantee the wrath of a vaccine-preventable disease, but it also leaves you vulnerable to them. In terms of the flu, there are many people who have never received the recommended immunization and have been fortunate enough to side step illness, but there is no way to predict who will or will not contract the disease. Just because you have never gotten the flu, doesn’t mean you never will. And let’s not forget the long list of people you could inadvertently expose to the flu who are considered to be at a high-risk of developing complications or even death due to pre-existing medical conditions, age, and even ethnicity. I fell into this high-risk category myself during the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic. At the time, I was pregnant with my daughter and trying to find providers who actually had the vaccine in stock was a task to say the least. It was frightening to know that this highly contagious disease was spreading through the country and that I was more likely to develop complications due to my pregnancy. Knowing those complications could affect the health of my unborn child was the most frightening of all. Fortunately, my obstetrician’s office received a shipment of the vaccines within a few weeks of its release and I was able to cross off an item of my list of mommy-to-be worries.
Being unprotected against the flu, or any vaccine-preventable disease, is a dangerous risk that no one expects to be affected by. While there is no guarantee that you will be one of the millions affected by the flu each year, there is no guarantee you won’t. If you want to gamble, head for the Vegas strip, but don’t roll the dice on your health!