Each winter, millions of Americans suffer from the flu. All of us know the awful days of fevers, chills and body aches of influenza. But in addition to the miserable millions, several thousands of persons die each year as a result of the flu. With the vaccine, however, this annual epidemic can be avoided.
There is always a lot of misinformation going around about the flu vaccine. If this misinformation keeps you from having a flu shot, you are cheating yourself out of an opportunity to protect your health. Below are some facts about the flu vaccine.
1. You need a repeat flu shot every year. Every year, the influenza virus changes. That is why we can be infected with it over and over, year after year. Virus doctors try to predict what the next version will look like. Each year they change the vaccine hoping to keep one step ahead of the influenza virus. A person should receive the new flu shot every fall.
2. You cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Period. If you, or someone you know, think you got the flu from the vaccine, think again. The influenza vaccine is made from dead virus particles that physiologically cannot cause influenza. You can, however, have side effects or a reaction to the shot. Some people get headaches and mildly elevated temperatures; this is a reaction to the shot, not an infection. The most common side effect is a sore muscle from the injection. A sore arm for a day, however, is a small investment to avoid a week of misery.
In addition, the flu shot does not give you full immunity until several weeks after you receive it. It also does not vaccinate against every possible form of the flu virus. Because of this, you can be infected by an early virus or by unusual forms of the virus even soon after you receive the shot.
3. Certain groups of people are at higher risk for complications from flu, and should plan to get a flu shot in October. However, anyone who feels they are at risk is welcome to get a flu shot.
Persons six months to five years old, and persons 50 years and older
Pregnant women beyond their third month (The vaccine is safe for breast-feeding)
Persons with asthma and breathing problems
Persons with diabetes, heart problems and other chronic illnesses
Dialysis patients and other persons with kidney problems
Persons who care for any of the people above, and children in those same homes (They can accidentally pass the flu onto the sick person at home.)
School teachers, police officers, health care workers and people who work with large groups
4. Some people should not get a flu shot. This includes people with severe egg allergies, people who have had a severe allergic reaction to the flu shot in the past, children under six months. We will ask you about these things, and other reasons a flu shot might not be right for you, before we give you a shot.
5. It is not hard to get your flu shot. If you can get a flu shot through your work, do so. You can also get a flu shot at the Grand Canyon Clinic for a flat fee of $20. You do not have to be a previously established patient of the clinic, though if you have never been to the clinic, you will have to fill out some paperwork. An appointment is not necessary; you can walk in at any time during business hours. Please note that the clinic is now on its fall schedule of Monday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Starting Nov. 1, the clinic is open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.