Five Reasons to Get Your Flu Shot

November 6, 2014 Brigham and Women's Hospital

We have five reasons why you should get your flu shot this year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 42 percent of adults (aged 18 years and older) received a flu vaccine during the 2013-2014 flu season. Obviously, some of us still need convincing about the need for flu vaccination.

Here are five reasons why you should get your flu shot this year:

1. The flu is more serious than you may realize.

According to a study by the CDC, more than 200,000 people in the United States, on average, are hospitalized each year for illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections. The flu also can be deadly. From 1976 to 2006, estimates of annual flu-associated deaths in the United States ranged from 3,000 to nearly 49,000 people.

Certain groups of adults are at higher risk for serious illness and complications from the flu, including:

2. The flu vaccine is the most effective way to prevent illness caused by seasonal influenza viruses.

During the 2013-2014 flu season, the CDC estimated that the flu vaccine reduced a person’s risk of developing flu-related illness –serious enough to require a doctor’s visit – by 61 percent. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine may vary from year to year based on several factors, including how closely the flu vaccine matches circulating flu strains.

3. There is a flu vaccine available for almost everyone.

Don’t like needles? Healthy adults up to age 49 may receive either a nasal spray version, which contains weakened, live virus, or the shot. Allergic to eggs? An egg-free, standard-dose trivalent shot is appropriate for people aged 18 through 49 years who have severe egg allergies. Need extra protection? Quadrivalent vaccines (in both injectable and nasal forms) protect against four flu viruses. (Typical flu vaccines are trivalent, covering three strains of flu.) There is also a high-dose vaccine that may offer added protection to people over 65 years of age; those with weakened immune systems, such as patients undergoing chemotherapy or who are receiving immune-suppressing drugs for diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or colitis; and people with HIV. Discuss your options for flu vaccination with your doctor.

4. Last year’s flu shot won’t provide adequate protection from the flu this year.

There are several reasons why you need to get a flu shot every year. First, your body’s immune response to the vaccine gradually declines, so an annual vaccine is needed to provide continuous protection. Second, flu viruses are constantly changing. Each year, the strains covered in the flu vaccine are reviewed and adjusted.

5. The flu vaccine is covered by many health plans.

The Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to cover preventive care, including influenza vaccinations. Check with your health plan. Some plans may require that your vaccine be administered by a health care provider who is a member of the plan’s network in order to qualify for coverage.

Learn more about flu vaccination:

- Jamie R.
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