Every year during flu season, I give all my patients my flu shot pitch– “We’ve got flu shots in clinic! Let’s get you vaccinated and protected. It’s super convenient – you can get it on the way out of the office.” Most of the time, I get a “yes,” and we’re good.
Sometimes, though, I get a “no,” and when I do, I have to stop and ask – “But why don’t you want a flu vaccine?”
Here are the responses I hear most often (and how I respond).
“I’m pregnant, so I don’t need the flu shot this year. “
My response: Actually, this is a critical year for you to get the flu vaccine. It will stimulate your body to build antibodies to fight the flu, and you share those antibodies with your baby. The two of you will both get protection from the flu with one shot. Influenza is a serious illness in pregnant women and can be harmful for a developing baby. And, your baby will continue to benefit even after she’s born. She can’t get her own flu shot until she’s 6 months old, but she’ll be protected by the flu shot you get today.
“I get the flu no matter what every year.”
My response: There is a chance you’ll get the flu even if you get the flu shot, but that chance is much lower than if you skip the flu shot. The antibodies your body makes in response to the vaccine may not be enough to fight some flu viruses while it protects you from other flu viruses. But most people who tell me they get sick every year aren’t getting the flu – they’re getting a common cold. The two can be difficult to tell apart, but in general, colds are much milder with the main symptom being a runny or stuffy nose. The flu, on the other hand, hits you like a truck with high fevers and severe aches, pain, and fatigue.
“I get sick from the flu shot.”
My response: That achy feeling you get after the flu shot – that’s okay! That means your body is putting up a fight against the vaccine. It takes about 2 weeks to build up your immunity, but then later this year if you’re exposed to the flu virus, your immune system will be ready to kick into gear and protect you from really getting sick. The flu shot is worth the initial discomfort.
“I’m healthy, so I don’t need the vaccine.”
My response: You are healthy, but influenza hits even healthy adults hard. You could be in bed for a week. This is not like a regular winter cold. And, If you get sick, who’s at risk for the flu around you? You can be contagious for 24 hours before you feel sick with symptoms. Young children and older adults are at high risk for serious complications when they get the flu that can send them to the hospital. And there other people you’re around like coworkers, friends, and family that you may not even realize are at high risk due to medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease. Don’t risk getting sick and putting others in harm’s way – get the flu shot.
You don’t have to see your doctor to get the vaccine – there are plenty of places to get it: local drug stores, super stores, schools, and even some work places. And you don’t have to take my word alone, here’s a link to the interview I did with the CDC on Facebook Live on the importance of the flu vaccine. Protect yourself – and your loved ones – from what can be a serious illness. No excuses – get your flu shot!