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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. It Lessens 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.
  5. 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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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.