It’s free for many of us, widely available and we’re told it greatly reduces the chance we’ll spend two weeks of the winter in utter misery.
But you didn’t get a flu shot this year, did you?
You’re not alone. A survey released today by the National Consumers League reported that 22 percent of U.S. parents say they’ve never received the vaccination, and 53 percent of parents with children 17 and younger haven’t gotten it within the past year.
This cuts against the grain of medical opinion. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year, with rare exceptions. I’m pretty sure the exceptions don’t include “doesn’t like needles.”
Every year, of course, many people avoid the shot and dodge the bullet. Influenza has been “widespread” in Minnesota for the past three weeks, according to the state Department of Health. But it hasn’t had a huge impact so far. During the week ending last Friday, 186 flu-related hospitalizations were reported in the state, including nine in Northeastern Minnesota.That’s well below the early spike of the 2012-13 flu season, when 569 people were hospitalized in Minnesota during the same week.
But whether it’s 569 or 186, you don’t want to be one of them. You don’t want to be among the many more stuck at home: feverish, eyes watering, every joint in your body aching.
Health experts acknowledge that the vaccine is far from foolproof. But it not only reduces your chances of getting the illness, it also tends to reduce the intensity of the flu if you do get it, said Dr. Andrew Thompson of St. Luke’s hospital.
Logic would seem to dictate that the vaccination is a good tradeoff: a quick shot potentially preventing two weeks of misery.
So in its survey, the National Consumers League asked people who didn’t get vaccinated for flu why they didn’t. The answers, with some offering more than one reason:
* They’re in good health — 45 percent
* Concern about side effects — 29 percent
* Perceived ineffectiveness of the vaccine — 24 percent
* They don’t believe flu is a serious illness — 21 percent
* They fear contracting the flu from the vaccination — 20 percent.
Such answers dismay infectious disease specialists. If you’re interested, check out a CDC fact sheet that responds to all of them here:
The National Consumer League survey was conducted by Harris Interactive. They polled 1,756 adult Americans with the emphasis on parents of children ages 0-17.
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