5 reasons it's still important to get your flu shot
(BPT) - As our country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the threat of the pandemic will become more complicated by increasing cases of the flu, making more people ill and putting further strain on the U.S. health care system.
Pediatric epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist Dr. Emily Godbout from Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU offers five crucial reasons everyone should get a flu shot this year.
1. Flu shots help reduce serious respiratory illness
While some people who get vaccinated may still contract influenza, the flu shot typically prevents about 70 of 100 people who receive it from developing a moderate to severe flu infection. So even though the vaccine might not completely prevent the flu, it can help keep you from getting sick enough that you have to go to the hospital.
“Reducing the overall burden of respiratory illnesses is really important to help protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe disease,” said Godbout, “And it also helps lessen the resulting burden on our health care system, which is crucial throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Godbout said that while practices people follow to help guard against COVID-19, such as handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks, will probably help decrease the spread of influenza, the flu shot is still the single most effective way to reduce the spread of the flu.
2. Flu shots are safe
“The flu shot is very safe and effective at helping prevent severe disease and hospitalization,” Godbout said. “I know people might have reservations about coming into the doctor’s office, but I can assure everyone that our providers are really vigilant about taking appropriate precautions to make sure everyone is safe.”
The doctor also pointed out that patients will not contract influenza from the vaccine. “The virus is inactivated,” she said, “so it can’t actually cause the flu infection after you get the shot.”
Flu shots are recommended for anyone six months old and older.
3. Flu shots are updated every year
“The U.S. flu vaccine is reviewed every single year and updated to match circulating flu viruses,” said Godbout. “The flu vaccine can typically protect against three or four different viruses. Since the virus changes from year to year, immunization or natural infection from the previous year is not protective."
She also said that our antibody response — what helps us fight the virus — can decrease over time, so a yearly dose will help boost the antibody response before the start of the influenza season.
4. Influenza and COVID-19 share some overlapping symptoms
It’s important to know that some symptoms of COVID-19 and influenza are similar. If you have symptoms you are concerned about, it’s best to call your health care provider right away. You may need to be tested for both the flu and COVID-19 to be certain what is causing you to be sick, so your doctor can recommend the best course of treatment.
While having the flu shot doesn't mean you can't get the flu, as discussed above, a vaccination will at least lessen the severity of your symptoms — giving you and your loved ones peace of mind.
Reducing the spread of flu cases overall, by getting vaccinated, will help cut down on the number of seriously ill patients that clinics and hospitals need to diagnose and treat, which will help everyone get through the winter season more easily.
5. A flu shot protects you throughout the season
Now is a good time to get vaccinated. It takes a couple of weeks for antibodies to develop in your body, but the vaccination will continue to protect you throughout the worst months of the flu season.
Godbout said, "We will continue to offer the flu shot throughout the fall and winter."
For the latest on flu and COVID-19, visit vcuhealth.org.
Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as meningitis, continue to impact our communities, including schools and college campuses. Before your kids head back to school for the spring semester, schedule a wellness visit to talk to their doctor about the two different types of meningitis vaccines needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis.
(BPT) - GSK spokesperson Patsy Schanbaum’s daughter, Jamie, was a college freshman when she contracted meningococcal disease, also known as meningitis.
“I got the call that every parent hopes they never get — their child has been hospitalized and it’s an emergency. By the time I got to the hospital that night, Jamie was in an induced coma, fighting for her life.”
Jamie was diagnosed with meningitis and, to help stop the spread of the disease, the doctors amputated both legs below the knee and her fingers.
“Giving the go-ahead to the doctors to amputate her limbs was probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make as a mother, but it was the only way to help save her life,” Patsy said.
Early symptoms of meningitis may be similar to those of a cold or the flu. The disease can progress quickly and be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours.1 One in 10 of those who contract it will die, and one in five will suffer long-term consequences, such as loss of limbs, like Jamie.2
“My daughter was fortunate to survive meningitis, but others may not be so lucky, and it shouldn’t be because of a lack of education. As a mother, I feel it is important for parents to educate themselves about the disease and the vaccines available by speaking with their teen’s doctor about it.”
There are two different types of vaccines and both are needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B.7
Anyone can get meningitis, but adolescents and young adults are at an increased risk for meningitis due to behaviors like living in close quarters, sharing drinks or eating utensils, kissing or coughing.3,4,5,6 Serogroup B has been responsible for 100 percent of US college outbreaks of meningococcal disease from 2011 through March 2019, which involved 13 campuses, 50 cases and 2 deaths among an at-risk population of approximately 253,000 students.3
“I stayed by Jamie’s side for seven months while she recovered. Together we worked to physically and emotionally adapt to a new lifestyle. The journey to recovery was difficult, and at certain points I even felt helpless, but we made it through as a family.”
Jamie, also a GSK spokesperson, and Patsy founded The J.A.M.I.E. Group to help educate parents about the impact of meningitis and available vaccinations.
“I want to ensure no family ever has to go through what mine did.”
Today, Patsy feels empowered as a mother, advocate and spokesperson for GSK, sharing her family’s story to educate parents, teens and young adults about the potential dangers of meningitis and the types of vaccines available to help prevent it.
Vaccine-preventable diseases, such as meningitis, continue to impact our communities, including schools and college campuses. Before your kids head back to school for the spring semester, schedule a wellness visit to talk to their doctor about the two different types of meningitis vaccines needed to help protect against the five vaccine-preventable groups of meningitis – A, C, W, Y and B.7 Vaccination may not protect all recipients.
For more information, visit http://www.meningitisb.com.
Content sponsored by GSK.
 CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Signs and Symptoms: Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/symptoms.html
 CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Clinical Information. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/clinical-info.html.
 Marshall GS, Dempsey AF, Srivastava, Isturiz RE. US college students are at increased risk for serogroup B meningococcal disease. JPIDS. 2019:1-4.
 CDC. Manual for the Surveillance of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases: Chapter 8: Meningococcal Disease. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/surv-manual/chpt08-mening.html.
 CDC. Meningococcal Disease: Causes and Spread to Others. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/about/causes-transmission.html.
 Larimer County. Meningococcal Disease. Available at: larimer.org/health/communicable-disease/meningococcal-disease
 CDC. Meningococcal Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/public/index.html.
Interested in Publishing on The Health IDEA?
Send your query to the Publisher today!