Why do I get a flu shot every year? Hint: It’s not about me
The beginning of fall signals the beginning of another season in my clinical life — flu season. Flu vaccines are now available at Asante Physician Partners clinics, and so begins our yearly dance of trying to convince patients to get the vaccine.
Many of our patients are young and healthy, and may not fully understand the benefits and risks of getting a flu shot. Others simply may be afraid of needles.
“I’m young, haven’t had the flu in years,” they tell me. “And when I did, it wasn’t too bad.” That may be true, but if even if you’re young and healthy, there are other things to consider. Being immunized reduces sick days and thus lost days of productive work. Just as important, you’re helping to protect vulnerable populations from serious illness and even death. Most influenza occurs in children, pregnant women, the elderly and the medically frail. Some years, certain strains of the flu are deadly for everyone. Just Google “pandemic flu” if you want nightmares tonight.
For this reason, I strongly recommend to my patients that they vaccinate against the flu every year. In family medicine, I have a clinic full of medically vulnerable patients. In fact, this is the main reason I get a flu shot every year. It is my duty to protect my patients and my community, and getting the shot makes it less likely that they will get the flu from me.
Getting immunized also helps me to contribute to “herd immunity” within the community. If 80 to 90 percent of a given population gets immunized every year we can protect others who are unable to get the vaccine because of allergies or other medical conditions. Their best hope for protection comes from the goodwill of others who decided to get a flu shot.
This year, I am fortunate to have a few more reasons to get my immunization. My wife is pregnant and we are expecting a boy in January, right in the middle of flu season. By getting my vaccination this year, I not only protect my patients who are vulnerable, but my wife and soon-to-be newborn, who are included in those vulnerable populations.
This year, for the sake of our community (and my family) I urge you to join me in getting immunized. Our children, spouses, parents and grandparents depend on us. If you’re afraid of needles, don’t fret. Your Asante care team is happy to hold your hand. It’s something I look forward to doing every time flu season comes around.