11/02/2017

There’s no excuse. Now is the time to get the flu vaccine.

Multiple cases of the flu already have been reported in the Savannah community

Still on the fence about whether or not to get a flu shot this year? Flu season is here, and if you haven’t gotten the flu vaccine, it’s time to stop making excuses and get it.

“It’s never too late, as long as we are still in flu season, to get a vaccination,” says Laura Floyd, RN, COHN, manager, St. Joseph’s/Candler Occupational Health Services.

Flu season typically runs October to late April. Floyd says there have already been confirmed cases of the flu in the community. 

Laura Floyd
Laura Floyd, RN, COHN, manager, St. Joseph’s/Candler Occupational Health Services

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The flu can cause mild to severe symptoms, including high fever, sore throat, muscle ache, headache and possible vomiting and diarrhea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. The reason for that is because a person’s immune protection from the vaccination declines over time so an annual vaccination is needed to get the optimal protection against the flu. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for anyone six months of age and older.

Related Article: Who should get the flu shot? Everyone.

During the 2016-2017 flu season, the CDC reports approximately 36,000 people died in the U.S. as a result in the flu and another 200,000 were hospitalized.

“The flu is dangerous,” Floyd says. “Getting the flu shot is safer than getting the flu. It not only keeps you well, but it keeps your family and those around you healthy.”

Despite the seriousness of the flu and the vaccine’s efforts to prevent it, people still refuse the flu shot. A lot is due to misconceptions and misinformed excuses.

“There are still myths to be dispelled,” Floyd says. “What we try to do is educate people. We don’t force anyone to take the flu shot, but we try to get the most accurate information out to people so they can make the best decision.”

Here are some common excuses people give for not getting the flu shot that Floyd discredits:

1. The flu shot gives me the flu
The flu shot cannot cause the flu illness. Flu vaccines are made with viruses that have been inactivated and are therefore not infectious, Floyd says. Some people may have mild reactions to the flu shot including soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given.

“You may have mild reactions, but they won’t last more than three days. It’s not the flu,” Floyd says. “Oftentimes people may mistake side effects for the flu, but it’s not. It could be a cold or allergies, especially this time of the year. The flu is a very specific set of symptoms. People that just have congestion or a running nose or cough, that’s not the flu.”

It’s also important to remember that it takes up to two weeks after the vaccination for the body to develop immune protection.

2. I want to build my immune system without depending on vaccines
The flu vaccine is comprised of four strains of the flu. If you get the flu shot, you have immunity to those strains, but you are not protected against other strains so a strong immune system is still important, Floyd says. In fact, you get a better response from the flu vaccine if you do have a healthy immune system.

“Vaccination, while it’s not perfect and there are some potential side effects, is much safer than getting the flu,” Floyd says. “We certainly recommend people maintain a strong immune system. We don’t recommend you just vaccinate yourself and live however you want. I think they work hand in hand with each other.”

If you are trying to boost your immune system, there are other ways to do that besides ignoring vaccines, including:

  • Eat right – don’t skip meals; eat lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats; eat less high saturated fat, processed and fast foods
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Routine exercise under the guidance of your physician

3. I won’t come to work or go out in public sick so I won’t spread it
This is not a reliable reasoning, Floyd says, because you are infectious for up to two days before you even have any symptoms. Therefore, you are contagious before you realize you are sick.

4. I don’t like needles
If you have a fear of needles, Floyd recommends receiving the vaccine through an intradermal needle as opposed to an intramuscular needle. The intradermal vaccination just barely goes under the skin instead of into the muscle. It’s a lot less scary looking, Floyd adds.

5. I don’t have time to get the vaccine
Inconvenience isn’t a valid excuse because flu vaccinations are readily available at almost every neighborhood pharmacy, as well as at your doctor’s office. Flu shots also are available through the St. Joseph’s/Candler Center for Medication Management. It’s offered at no cost to Medicare patients. Private insurance patients may want to check with their provider to find out any cost associated.

The Chatham County Health Department also offers the flu vaccine for $29 and no appointment is required. You can save even more time by filling out the consent form ahead of time. Download it here

6. It made me sick before so I don’t want to get it again
As mentioned above, there are some mild side effects that some may experience following the flu shot. Floyd says the first time you get the flu shot is when you are most likely to experience achiness. However, if you get a cold or other ailment within days of getting the shot, it’s not the vaccine’s fault.

7. I have never had the flu so why should I get the flu shot now
Floyd hears this often and has one word for you, “Lucky.”

“Anyone is at risk of getting the flu at any time,” Floyd says. “No you’ve never gotten it, but you are at the same risk as everybody else to get it. You can get it at the grocery store, waiting in line to check out. You can be exposed to it anywhere. You have just been lucky so far.”

8. The flu shot contains preservatives and chemicals that might harm me
The flu shots administered at St. Joseph’s/Candler do not have any preservatives or chemicals in the vaccine, Floyd says. She recommends checking with your doctor or pharmacist if you are concerned what is in the flu vaccine.

9. I’m allergic to eggs
In the past, people with an allergy to eggs could not take the flu vaccine because albumin from eggs was used in the manufacturing process. That’s not the case any longer so the flu vaccine is safe for those allergic to eggs, Floyd says. 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000