Sharing New Facts in Hopes of Eliminating Flu
Oct 01, 2012

When a Facebook friend of mine suggested that he was suffering from a mild case of the flu as a result of his recent flu shot, I wasn’t all that surprised.  Lots of people mistakenly believe that the flu shot can somehow give you the flu (which of course is absolutely not the case).  However, what did concern me was the fact that this gentleman works as an EMT.   And the people commenting on his status update were other health care workers.  Unfortunately, while some were expressing empathy, several others were reinforcing his statement rather than correcting it.
I hesitated to add my own comment at first.  This man happens to have been my daughter’s basketball coach, but it’s been a few years since I’ve seen him so we’re not all that close.  However, I couldn’t help but feel obligated to explain that the flu shot can’t possibly be responsible for giving someone the flu.  I of course included a link to support my statement and wished  him well.
Afterwards I braced myself for an onslaught of disagreement from the dozen or so people who had commented before me, but….nothing.  I got nothing. 
While I may never know if my comment helped dispel a common myth associated with the flu shot, I felt better knowing that I had tried.   And here’s why.
In a recent report from the CDC, it is documented that 33.1% of health care workers did not receive the influenza vaccination during the 2011-2012 season.  They cited the following explanations as their three most common reasons for not being vaccinated:  

  • 28.1% believed that they did not need it
  • 26.4% were concerned about the vaccine’s effectiveness
  • 25.1% were concerned about side effects

I would venture to guess that many people, not just health care workers, would cite these very same reasons.  This is why I feel it’s important that we promote educational efforts that will provide people with a better understanding of the potential dangers of the flu, as well as a greater knowledge of how the flu vaccine helps to prevent the spread of illness with minimal side effects.
Fortunately, Families Fighting Flu will be sponsoring an informative webinar tomorrow, October 2nd from 12-1 pm EST, entitled “New Information to Protect Yourself & Your Family From Flu This Season”.  Dr. William Schaffner, immediate past-president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, will be available to share the latest information about what you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community from the flu.  He will be joined by Jennifer Lastinger, a parent who knows first-hand how serious the flu can be.  Last year I heard Jennifer speak, as her husband does in this video below, about the tragedy of losing her 3 1/2 year-old daughter Emily to influenza.  It is a story that has touched me deeply and reaffirms my desire to help reduce childhood influenza.
In order to protect children like Emily, we can start by improving upon the statistics recently identified by the Prevent Childhood Influenza project of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases:

  • Each year in the U.S., there are approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 flu-related deaths that will occur as a result of influenza.
  • More than 20,000 children are hospitalized and approximately 100 children die from the flu in the U.S each year.
  • About half of the children who die from influenza were previously healthy.
  • Influenza accounts for 10-19% of medical office visits and 6 -29 % of emergency department visits among children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Hospitalization rates are higher among children younger than two years of age compared with older children and are similar to rates for other high-risk groups.
  • Hospitalization rates are highest among infants younger than six months of age who cannot be vaccinated themselves.
  • Annual influenza epidemics peak in school-aged children before other age groups.

It’s time we realize that we each do our part when we get our flu shots by helping to prevent transmission of influenza to others.
Please take a moment to review the plans for improving childhood influenza immunization rates.  Then, help us conquer the common myths about influenza vaccination and encourage people you know to register for the Families Fighting Flu seminar hereGet the facts and get vaccinated.     

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