Flu Shots

Catherine Ndhlovu gives a flu shot at the Tulsa Health Department “pop up” flu shot clinic at ORU Mabee Center on Tuesday. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World

It’s time to get your flu shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that almost everyone over the age of 6 months get the annual vaccine before the end of October. That timing maximizes your protection against flu.

The first reason to get a flu shot is personal: You’ll strongly reduce your chance of getting the flu this year and, if you do get it, it will likely be a relatively mild case.

Flu is potentially deadly. In recent flu seasons, CDC estimates of U.S. deaths range from 12,000 to 56,000. Thousands more were hospitalized. In the pandemic of 1918, a third of the world’s population was infected and at least 50 million people died, 675,000 in the United States.

We were impressed by CDC statistics cited in a recent column by Stillwater physician Woody Jenkins. Flu shots prevented an estimated 5.3 million Americans from getting the flu and stopped 85,000 influenza-related hospitalizations in 2016-2017. A 2015 CDC study shows that more than 40,000 lives were saved by flu vaccination over a nine-year period. The shot you get today could well save your life.

The flu shot cannot cause the flu. We all know people who say that happened to them. It’s biologically impossible, according to the CDC. Some people have reactions to flu shots, although that usually is nothing more than soreness at the injection site.

The second reason to get a flu shot is altruistic: You might be saving someone else’s life.

Immunizing a greater portion of the population reduces the ability of the disease to spread. The more communicable a disease is, the higher the rate of vaccination needed to achieve herd immunity — a general resilience against the diseases spread in the population.

Your vaccination means you are much less likely to be a vector in spreading the flu to vulnerable people, including infants, older people and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Flu shots are broadly available from physicians, the Tulsa Health Department and at many local pharmacies. For anyone with medical insurance, the Affordable Care Act guarantees flu immunization without out-of-pocket cost such as copays.

Get immunized, for yourself and for others. You’ll feel better for having done it.

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