An Epidemic of Apathy Towards Seasonal Flu
This article was originally printed as a guest post on BlogHer, Dec. 7, 2010, under the title, Why Everyone Should Get A Flu Shot, in honor of National Influenza Vaccination Week.
By Christine Vara
Last year at this time, the H1N1 virus, also referred to as the “swine flu,” had us all rather panicked. People were anxious to get vaccinated against the flu then. But what about now?
My guess is that the media attention given to the H1N1 epidemic last year left a skeptical public uncertain about the impact of the flu, and the safety and effectiveness of flu shots in general.
Regrettably, H1N1 made itself personally known to my family last year when my own 9-year-old daughter, Marissa, received a positive diagnosis. Unfortunately, she contracted H1N1 before a vaccine became available. I’ll admit that my husband and I were very concerned. In the back of our minds, we knew that she could easily become a tragic statistic, and the feeling was one of helplessness.
We did our best to quarantine her in order to keep the virus from spreading to our other four children. We tried to make her as comfortable as possible in her room, and gave her a walkie-talkie to call us with when she needed something. My husband even downloaded a week’s worth of Brady Bunch, Partridge Family and Happy Days reruns to keep her entertained. Her sisters slipped get well cards under her door and we served her meals on special trays that only my husband or I would handle and deliver.
After a week or so, my daughter recovered and resumed life as usual. It sure is interesting how a brief brush with an unpredictable disease can change your perspective. The unspoken fear that we faced last year has faded into a childhood memory for Marissa. Surprisingly, it appears that public memory has been short-lived as well — which troubles me as a mom of five active kids.
Due to the heightened concern from last year’sH1N1 outbreak, I would have guessed that more people would be inclined to get flu shots this year. Unfortunately, it appears that a significant portion of the public is more concerned about potential side effects of the vaccine than with the consequences of falling ill with influenza.
A survey of 1,500 adults, recently conducted by The Consumer Reports National Research Center, indicated that 30 percent of those surveyed will skip the flu shot this year, citing concerns about side effects, exaggerated epidemic messages, and a desire to build up their own immune systems.
Another recent Time article indicates that this sentiment is echoed among many parents. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) questioned more than 600 mothers of kids ages 6 to 18, and revealed that 80 percent of mothers said their attitude toward vaccination was not swayed by last year’s H1N1 scare and one-third were opting to forgo flu vaccination for their children, citing fear of side effects as their main concern.
What the public may fail to understand is that seasonal flu vaccines are extremely safe. Consider the fact that flu vaccines are administered year after year to a large percentage of the population. Because of this, they are some of the most widely used and well tested immunizations being administered today and their safety record is proven.
So what is all the worry about? Some minimal discomfort and minor side effects?
Unfortunately, many of the common worries are actually based on unfounded myths.
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