The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 1:00 am


A shot worth taking

Flu vaccine benefits outweigh minimal risks

It's late October, so you can be sure of two things. One is that trick-or-treaters are on the way. The other is that another flu season is on the horizon. For reasons that are difficult to fathom, many Americans worry more about the safety of shots that can prevent the flu than they do about a disease that is a leading cause of death.

Or perhaps it's just fulfillment of the old cliché – familiarity breeds contempt. During the 2017-18 flu season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports, 49 million people caught the flu. The virus and its complications led to more than 900,000 hospitalizations and 79,000 deaths – at least 336 in Indiana. Yet Americans in general and Hoosiers in particular are remarkably blasé about getting their shots.

“We're routinely lower than other states in flu injections,” Connie Heflin, executive director of Super Shot, said Monday.

There are plenty of places, including doctors' offices and pharmacies, that can administer the shots, which usually are covered by health insurance.

As The Journal Gazette's SherrySlater reported Saturday, local residents trying to meet the CDC's suggested end-of-this-month deadline for getting vaccinated may encounter some short-term challenges. Some outlets have run short of the extra-strength vaccine recommended for those 65 and older. Spokespersons for CVS and Walgreens blamed manufacturer shipping delays and advised customers to call their pharmacies to check on availability of the vaccine. They also suggested it's better for seniors to settle for the standard-dose vaccine than to go unvaccinated.

There are some people who should not get a flu shot. According to the CDC, that includes children younger than 6 months, and people who have severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine or its ingredients.

But ignore the internet chatter about the widespread dangers of flu shots and other immunizations. The shot cannot, for instance, “give people the flu.” As notes, here are no live viruses in the vaccines. (People with compromised immune systems are advised not to take the flu vaccine sprays, which do contain weakened live viruses.)

Nor is it true that if you got a shot last year, you don't ever need another one – the shot is reconfigured every season to deal with mutations of the virus.

And it isn't true that young, healthy people are naturally immune to the flu. They can get sick, too.

At its worst, the flu can lay you up or even be life-threatening; at its best, it means an unpleasant few days with lost time from work or school. Protect yourself, your family and your community by getting vaccinated.

To learn more

During the month of October, Super Shot and Matthew 25 Health and Dental Clinic are offering the shots free on Mondays and Fridays to uninsured adults. Call 260-426-3250, ext. 23, for more information.

The Allen County Health Department administers flu shots by appointment. Call 449-7504.

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