Healthy Communities

By Jennifer McGohan

(Wampsville, NY – Jan. 2013) Have you been putting off getting your flu shot? Well, guess what: it’s time to take a closer look at what may be holding you back because this year is showing to be an earlier and more robust flu season, making it more important to get vaccinated this season.

Let’s see what you might be thinking that’s keeping you from going to get your flu vaccination:

Oh, the flu isn’t so bad. Right?

Wrong. The flu is easy to get from others, it can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia and pregnant women, young children, older people and people with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and heart disease are at increased risk of serious flu-related complications.

Even healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time or even be hospitalized.

I’m healthy; I don’t need a flu vaccine.

Anyone can become sick with the flu and experience serious complications. Kids, teens and adults who are active and healthy can get the flu and become very ill from it. Flu viruses are unpredictable. Every season puts you at risk.

You might be around someone who’s at high risk for serious illness from the flu: a baby, your grandparents or even a friend. You don’t want to be the one spreading flu, do you?

“What if the flu vaccine makes me sick? I can’t risk missing work or school.”

This excuse won’t work. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are a sore arm and maybe a low fever or achiness. The nasal-spray flu vaccine might cause congestion, runny nose, sore throat or cough. If you do experience them at all, these side effects are mild and short-lived.

And that’s much better than getting sick and missing several days of school or work or possibly getting a very severe illness and needing to go to the hospital.

Wait a minute – I got a flu vaccine once and still got sick.

Even if you got a flu vaccine, there are still reasons why you might have felt flu-like symptoms:

* You may have been exposed to a non-flu virus before or after you got vaccinated. The flu vaccine can only prevent illnesses caused by flu viruses. It cannot protect against non-flu viruses.

* You might have been exposed to flu after you got vaccinated, but before the vaccine took effect. It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to build protection against the flu.

* You may have been exposed to an influenza virus that was very different from the viruses included in that year’s vaccine. The flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses that research indicates will cause the most disease during the upcoming season, but there can be other flu viruses around.

I hate shots.

Does anyone love getting a shot? Probably not, but the little discomfort of a flu shot is nothing compared to the suffering that can be caused by the flu. The flu can make you very sick for several days; miss work, send you to the hospital or worse.

For most healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 years old, the nasal-spray flu vaccine is a great choice for people who don’t like shots. Either way, a shot or spray can prevent you from catching the flu. So, whatever little discomfort you feel from the minor side effects of the flu vaccine is definitely worth it to avoid the flu.

I got a flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need another one.

Your body’s level of immunity from a vaccine received last season is expected to have declined. You may not have enough immunity to be protected from getting sick this season. You should get vaccinated again to protect yourself against the three viruses that research suggests are most likely to circulate again this season.

I don’t trust that the vaccine is safe.

Flu vaccines have been given for more than 50 years, and they have a very good safety record. Flu vaccines are made the same way each year, and their safety is closely monitored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration.

Hundreds of millions of flu vaccines have been given safely.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go out there and get your flu vaccination today from your doctor, your local pharmacy or from the Health Department. Get the list of flu clinics held by Madison County Health Department at or call 315.366.2848 today.Jennifer McGohan

Jennifer McGohan is Public Health Educator for the Madison County Department of Health. She can be reached at

By martha

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