Friends, I think it’s time you and I had a little chat. I realize that every year, you’re fed the same PSA: Holiday season is flu season, so make sure you’re taking every necessary precaution (re: getting the flu shot) to avoid catching even the slightest hint of the illness. The age-old spiel probably sounds like a broken record by now, but unless you want to spend your holiday season feeling anything but merry and bright, you might want to take notes. Still, despite the warnings, it seems like people are starting to question whether flu shots are really necessary. Let’s just say the numbers from a new survey have trickled in, and apparently, people aren't exactly running to the pharmacy to get the vaccine this year.
The new survey comes from researchers at the University of Chicago, and according to the results, the number of people making appointments with their doctors or showing up at local health clinics to get vaccinated, versus how many people have yet to get vaccinated at all, are pretty dismal. The survey's press release shows that, as of mid-November 2018, 57 percent of adults in the U.S. had not gotten vaccinated for the flu. What's worse, according to the survey, 41 percent of those who haven't been vaccinated yet have no intention of getting the shot at all this season.
I’ll be honest with you guys: Prior to it being my job to report on things like how to identify flu symptoms versus cold symptoms, and what strain of the flu is going around from year to year, I wasn’t all that concerned with catching the virus. I didn’t get vaccinated for years, but this was out of my own naiveté, and an "it'll never happen to me" mentality. Foolish, I know.
After catching the flu not once, but twice, and after reviewing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) summary of the entire 2017-2018 flu season, I’m a firm believer that it’s much better to be safe and get the vaccine than it is to opt out now and be sorry later. As per the CDC’s annual report, the flu started to spread in November of 2017, went viral in January 2018, and continued to remain widespread through March of that year. The report even noted that it was “one of the longest” flu seasons the U.S. has experienced in recent years, so yeah, the flu was not messing around here, guys.
As for this most recent flu season, it seems like it's been relatively low-key so far, but as of Dec. 1, 2018, the CDC issued a warning that flu activity does appear to be slowly increasing. Yet, despite the fact that last year’s flu season was kind of a lot, and despite the CDC's warnings that the current 2018-2019 strain isn't one to ignore, the University of Chicago's survey suggests that a lot of people just aren’t buying into the preventative powers of the vaccine — which, BTW, not only puts the non-vaccinated individual themselves at risk of potentially catching the virus, but also the people around them. “Unless you plan to stay away from other people and public places during this time of year, the flu shot is your best form of protection from the flu,” Dr. Kristin Dean, associate medical director at Doctor On Demand, tells Elite Daily in an email.
According to Dr. Dean, some of the most common reasons why people shy away from, or just outright refuse to get vaccinated, are that they believe getting the shot will ultimately result in their getting sick (BTW, Dr. Dean says this isn’t even possible), or they’ve underestimated the severity of the virus. But again, the more people who don’t get vaccinated, the higher the number of people who are at risk overall, so it's all kind of counterintuitive, wouldn't you agree?
"People probably have the misconception that flu shots are only for children and the elderly because children and the elderly are more likely to have severe consequences when catching the flu," Dr. Robert Segal, co-founder of LabFinder.com, tells Elite Daily over email "However, if you are a person of age between 'child' and 'elderly,' at one time or another, you have probably caught yourself feeling under the weather but have not caught the full-fledged flu." In other words, it can happen to you, so even though the CDC says the vaccine may not be 100 percent effective, not getting it will put you 100 percent at risk.
Mild or not, flu season is in full swing, and there’s always a chance that a mild season could spiral out of control and become just as, if not more severe than years past. Though the CDC highly recommends getting vaccinated early on in the season — i.e. around early October — Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, says the flu shot is available year-round, so you can still get the vaccine throughout the season.
“[The vaccine] takes about two weeks to build up adequate antibody titers to fight the flu, should you be exposed," he tells Elite Daily. However, Glatter adds, even though you should ideally get vaccinated in the fall, "it’s fine to do it through the wintertime and even into the spring."
In other words, if you or a loved one is considering skipping the flu vaccine altogether this winter, think again, and think carefully, because your health, and the health of others around you, is at stake.