By Liz Spurrell-Huss, LCSW, MPH, Community and Population Health, Montefiore Health System
Each year the flu tears across the country, hitting the Bronx particularly hard. In our borough, flu and pneumonia were the 4th leading cause of death in 2016; causing more deaths than substance abuse disorders or stroke. This year, more than 11,600 Bronx residents have sought care at an emergency department for flu-like symptoms.
Montefiore takes educating our community and patients as seriously as their health. That is why for the past 4 flu seasons, we have teamed up with Walgreens/Duane Reade to offer flu vaccines to as many people as possible and partnered with community organizations to hold seminars addressing any concerns people have about flu and the vaccine.
To better understand how our community feels about the flu vaccine, Montefiore and the Bronx Borough President’s Office conducted a survey asking our community for their thoughts on flu.
From our 101 responses, we learned that 62 percent of those who did not get vaccinated said they were worried about the side effects of the vaccine and 55 percent said they did not believe the flu vaccine will prevent the flu.
To address these concerns, here are some important facts about the flu vaccine:
The flu shot will give me the flu.
FALSE: The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It stimulates your body to produce antibodies. These antibodies protect you from flu viruses.
If I get the flu shot, I will get very sick from it.
FALSE: You may experience some mild symptoms, such as soreness where the shot was given, but serious complications are rare. The symptoms are usually mild compared to how sick you would feel if you developed the actual flu.
I am healthy, so I don’t need to get the flu shot.
FALSE: Because it is a highly contagious virus, even healthy people can get the flu. Also, if you are not protected against the flu, you could easily spread the flu to loved ones. Depending on their health issues, they might become very ill.
The flu vaccine isn’t 100-percent effective so it’s not worth it.
It can take your body about 2 weeks to fully develop immunity (or protection) from the vaccine, so if you get the flu within a few days of getting the flu shot, you were exposed to the flu before the vaccine could take effect.
If you do end up getting the flu more than two weeks after you’ve gotten the shot, you will likely have a much milder case.
The flu shot is a money-making scheme-that’s why we are pushed to get one every year.
Every flu season there are different flu viruses circulating. Viruses can also mutate. If your antibodies meet a virus they don’t recognize, they are unable to block it. The vaccine gives you antibodies so your body can recognize flu and can fend it off.
The Flu vaccine can keep you from getting sick from flu!
In fact, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):
Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization, including among children and older adults.
Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions.
Flu vaccination helps protect women during and after pregnancy.
Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder, if you do get sick.
Getting vaccinated yourself also protects people around you, like babies, young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.
If you have concerns about the flu or the flu vaccine, please do not hesitate to talk to your primary care provider. If you would like to speak with a member of Montefiore’s Community Health team—please reach out here: 347-418-4733.