In a study conducted by CityMD Urgent Care, 42 percent of adults said they were not planning to get the flu shot for the 2016-17 flu season. In the same study, more than half of millennials reported they were not planning on getting vaccinated.
52 percent of millennials said they don’t plan on getting the flu shot
When millennials were asked why they weren’t planning on getting a flu shot, their reasons included not wanting to spend the money, not thinking they needed it because they’ve never gotten the flu, not trusting it will keep them from getting sick, and the belief that the vaccine could make them sick.
The flu is dangerous
Influenza can lead to hospitalization and death, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). During flu seasons between 1976 and 2007, it is estimated that up to 49,000 people died due to the flu, which is known as influenza.
The flu season can begin as early as October and last until May, according to the CDC. The CDC recommends that anyone older than 6-months of age receive an annual flu vaccine to reduce their chances of getting the flu and spreading it.
42 percent of adults surveyed said they are not planning to get a flu shot
About the flu vaccine
The flu vaccine, which contains up to 4 different strains of the influenza virus, is being provided as an injection with a small needle in 2016.
Two weeks after receiving a flu vaccine, the body begins to develop antibodies that provide protection against infection.
Each year, the CDC conducts research and predicts which strains of the influenza virus will be the most common in the next flu season. Manufacturers then develop a vaccination that contains those strains for a person to develop antibodies against.
New recommendations on nasal spray
The flu shot is being provided as an injection with a small needle for 2016. A nasal flu vaccine was widely used last year, especially for children, but the CDC recently recommended against the method during the 2016-17 flu season because of its lower effectiveness.
A vaccine effectiveness study revealed the nasal spray method had a lower effectiveness compared to a direct injection of the vaccine from 2013 through 2016. The results of the study led to he CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), or nasal spray, should not be used.
“It’s the difference between getting very sick vs. having a mild illness”
While the opportunity to get the vaccine through a nasal spray may have helped with flu vaccination compliance among children, pediatricians and other health professionals will still push for kids and adults to get vaccinated through an injection, according to John Moore, DO, FAAFP, Aetna’s medical director for the U.S. Northeast Region.
Why get the flu shot?
Moore stressed that the flu shot can never give a patient the flu.
“It’s a dead vaccine so it’s not possible to catch the flu from the flu vaccine,” Moore said. “It’s important to get vaccinated before the flu season hits since your immune system needs two weeks to develop antibodies against the flu.”
Moore acknowledged that a person can still catch the flu after receiving the flu shot, but he emphasized it’s a far more milder illness than catching the flu without being immunized. Moore also notes many flu shot recipients experience no flu illness at all, suggesting that the vaccine provided complete protection through the flu season.
“It’s the difference between getting very sick vs. having a mild illness. When you don’t get a flu shot and get the full-blown flu, you may need to go to the hospital; you can get viral pneumonia,” Moore said. “When you get the flu shot, you still might get the flu, but your symptoms are far less serious. The vaccine protects you in the manner that your illness is so mild that it may not disable you at all.”
Protection through “herd immunity”
There are a few uncommon reasons why a person may not be able to get the flu shot, however. They may be too young (under 6 months of age) or had a serious reaction to a prior flu shot or are actively seriously ill. In the past, people with an egg allergy were unable to receive a flu shot, but one form of the vaccine is now made without the use of eggs, Moore noted.
Pregnant mothers who receive the flu shot pass the antibodies they form to their unborn child and provide partial protection to their newborn following birth. Some older adults may have difficulty with getting a flu shot because they may not be able to get access to a doctor’s office, Moore said.
For those who are too young, too ill, or otherwise unable to get vaccinated, these individuals can still get a partial level of protection through “herd immunity.” This means if everyone around the unvaccinated individual is vaccinated, it becomes very difficult for the influenza virus to spread from person-to-person.
“It’s very important for everyone eligible to be vaccinated to get the flu shot so that herd immunity provides a level of protection to their household, workplace and local community.”