Year after year, it's the same message: the best way to prevent the flu is to get the flu shot. But each year, people offer a number of reasons (or excuses) why they choose not do it. Flu can be deadly; on average, 3,000 people in Ohio die from pneumonia or influenza each year. The overwhelming majority of these deaths occur in people who are age 65 or older. And, many of these deaths could have been avoided if the affected individual, or the family members and caregivers in close contact with them, had only gotten a flu shot.
Why would anyone choose NOT to get a shot that will prevent getting sick? Consumer Reports conducted a national survey asking consumers why they weren't planning to get a flu shot this year. They received a variety of excuses, including:
Excuse: It's better to build your own natural immunities.
Reality: The body's innate immune response against the flu virus is usually just a few months, and the flu virus often changes from year to year. Any protection your body develops during one flu season is usually gone by the next.
Excuse: You never get sick or, if you do get the flu, you won't get that sick.
Reality: Just because you haven't had the flu in the past, doesn't mean you won't get it this year. Most people only get the flu once every several years. In addition, if you catch the flu, you will be putting others at risk.
Excuse: You or someone you know has gotten sick from the vaccine.
Reality: The injected vaccine contains a killed virus, so it is impossible for it to cause the flu. A small percentage of people who get a flu shot may have some minor aching or low grade fever.
Excuse: You're not part of an at-risk population.
Reality: The flu shot is especially important for certain groups of people, including pregnant women, those over age 50 and anyone with weakened immunity or chronic illness. But if you've been in a movie theater, a crowded elevator or a shopping mall, you're at risk, too.
Excuse: Medicine is now available to treat the flu.
Reality: For the antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu and Relenza to work, you have to start taking them within two days of the onset of symptoms. Even then, the drugs typically shorten the flu's duration by only a day or so.
Excuse: You don't like getting shots.
Reality: Nobody likes getting shots, but the benefits of the flu vaccine, both for yourself and for those you care about, are important enough to make it worth it. If the needle is what is preventing you from getting vaccinated, talk with your doctor about non-injected options.
Excuse: It's ineffective.
Reality: The shot prevents the flu in about 60 percent of healthy people in their 60s, and it has been shown to reduce hospitalizations from pneumonia or other complications by 27 to 70 percent and deaths by up to 80 percent.
Excuse: You don't like going to the doctor.
Reality: You don't have to. Vaccinations are widely available, including at grocery stores, pharmacies, public-health clinics and health fairs.
Excuse: It costs too much.
Reality: Flu shots are available for less than $30. In some cases, the shots are free. Check with your Medicare plan, insurance provider, doctor's office, employer and pharmacy for options that can cover or reduce the cost of a shot.
Influenza is a severe illness much of the time, and it's worth getting a flu shot every year to prevent one case of flu. So, what's your excuse?
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