Every year there is a choice for an individual to make for themselves and possibly their families: to get the flu shot, or to not get the flu shot. Everyone who makes this “choice” each year can be categorized into four groups: those whose employers require them to get it, those who see the choice as a very clear “yes,” those who have reservations about its effectiveness, and those who just don’t care and will take their chances. But it ultimately falls on each person to show up to a doctor’s office, clinic, or popup flu shot table and receive their vaccination. If you are a smart person who cares about other people, you will get your flu shot.
Before each category of decision is addressed, I’ll give three straightforward reasons to get the flu shot: there are many places to get a free flu shot very quickly, herd immunity helps protect the elderly and young children, and even if the shot isn’t 100 percent effective for the given year, it still helps reduce your chances of getting ill dramatically.
The first group of people who are required to get their flu vaccination are the lucky ones; they are reminded on a consistent basis to get their shot and most employers who require it also provide it on-site. According to the CDC, 11 states require that all healthcare employers must offer their employees free flu shots, while seven states must “ensure that healthcare workers are vaccinated against [the] flu.” There are numerous other states that have other similar laws just short of requiring healthcare employees to get vaccinated.
As a food server in a retirement care facility, I am required to get the flu shot every year. Every staff member is required to as well, and it is strongly encouraged for all of our residents to get it. This program of free on-site flu shots is fantastic for everyone, and I’m glad a lot of states require it. It not only protects all the employees from getting ill, but also the residents who may have weakened immune systems from being in contact with as many ill people.
The second group of people are the smart ones; they understand the benefits of the vaccination and take advantage of the many clinics and pharmacies that administer free flu shots throughout the season. There are 1000s of clinics and offices that provide flu shots at no cost, and almost all of them are drop-in. This means that you just walk in, sign a form, get your shot, and you can be on your way in a matter of minutes.
The third group of people argue what I think is the most common objection to getting the flu shot: it isn’t 100 percent effective for this year, so it’s not worth getting it at all. This is wrong. It is a false assumption based around the idea that if the vaccination is not 100 percent effective, it isn’t doing anything at all. The CDC reports that even if the flu vaccine isn’t a perfect match for the season, it still reduces the chance of flu illness by 40-60 percent for the general population. This is a huge gain from the whole 2 seconds it takes to drive to CVS and get the shot.
The last group of people are the worst and the most selfish. Even if you are at a low risk to have severe complications from the flu, it is still your responsibility to get the vaccine. Herd immunity is one of the strongest ways to keep the illness from spreading in general, but severely important to the elderly, very young children and other high-risk individuals. Children under the age of 6 months cannot get vaccinated for the flu, so they need protected in other ways. The rest of their family being vaccinated is the first line of defense for that child because the child will come into contact less with potential transmitters of the illness.
Herd immunity also helps those whose immune systems are compromised, either by a medical condition or by another illness. It is everyone’s responsibility to keep those who are most at risk safe, and should be done without hesitation, especially with something that takes almost no time at all and is provided at no cost.
There is no reason that you should not get your flu vaccine before flu season starts. By doing so, you will not only protect yourself, but you will be protecting other more vulnerable and at risk people. By getting your shot, you will be increasing your chances of remaining healthy and productive throughout the season. You could literally be saving someone’s life by simply taking 15 minutes out of your day to stop at a CVS or generic pharmacy to get your flu shot.