Ten Reasons to Get This Year’s Flu Shot. Now.

By now most of our regular readers know how we feel about immunizations –we’re for ’em. So here’s our plug for the 2012-2013 seasonal flu vaccine, which is made from three vaccine viruses – H1N1, H3N2 and B vaccine virus. Protection wanes over the course of a year and the viruses are constantly changing. So even if you got a flu shot last year you need to get another one now to make sure you’re protected. 

There’s lots of vaccine available. Your family doctor, most every pharmacy, the 7-11 on the corner, practically everyone is handing it out like candy. No shortage is anticipated, but it’s always a good idea to get it early, before the bug strikes.

  1. The flu season hasn’t hit yet. Once it does, you may be exposed before your immune system has a chance to mobilize, even after you get your shot (or nasal mist, also available). It takes at least 2 weeks for your body to produce the protective antibodies you need.
  2. You still have time before being consumed by the distraction of THE HOLIDAYS. By the time you’ve recovered it’s January and the virus is everywhere. It usually sticks around ’till May.
  3. The seasonal flu and H1N1 formula have been combined into one. No need to get two separate shots.
  4. In the past, young children and women of childbearing age have been among the hardest hit by the flu, and there’s no reason to think this year will be different.
  5. Exaggerated fears about side effects and vaccine reactions are just that — exaggerated. Don’t let the hype and media-driven fear mongering stop you from keeping your family safe and healthy.
  6. Herd immunity. You heard it here first. When a critical percentage of the population is immunized and prevented from carrying and spreading the virus — about 90% need to be vaccinated — it is protective for those who are too young or too ill to be protected by the vaccine themselves, like babies under 6 months and adults suffering from chronic diseases.
  7. The vaccine’s effectiveness is strongest during the first six months after receiving a flu shot. After that, the strength of the protection begins to diminish. So you need to get the shot every year.
  8. Medical conditions like prematurity, asthma, diabetes, pregnancy, and obesity (!) increase the risk of complications if you get the flu. You may not consider yourself at risk, but reconsider your health status … and that of those you love.
  9. The vaccine reduces the average person’s chances of catching the flu by 80%. It contains killed flu viruses that will not cause the flu, but will prepare the body to fight off infection with the live virus. Even if someone who’s been vaccinated ends up getting the flu anyway, their symptoms will be fewer and milder. It’s safe and it works. Go for it!

For even more information on the seasonal flu vaccine, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Protection’s website dedicated to all-things-flu.

Personal update: When Rachel’s miracle 24-week preemie nieces were discharged from the NICU their parents let the family know that if they wanted to cross their threshold and visit the girls, the flu vaccine was a must-have. No exceptions.  For those of you who have family members with medical conditions that place them at risk, take this as a wake-up call. Protect them by getting your flu shot now to help keep them safe.
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Ellen and Rachel are two old friends and “expert” mamas—one a pediatrician and one a family therapist—with fifty years of parenting experience between them.

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