Each year, the start of flu season comes as no surprise. But despite the efforts of healthcare practitioners, many people fail to get vaccinated. According to a new poll, 37% of American adults don’t plan to get a flu shot this year, even though flu season is well underway. The main reasons cited by those polled were concerns about side effects and getting ill, lack of confidence in the vaccine, and a dislike of needles. Some people noted that they never get the flu so don’t see a need to get vaccinated.
Considering that thousands of people die each year from flu-related complications, getting vaccinated is the best way to stay healthy. Besides preventing illness, there are a number of other reasons why it is important to receive the vaccine every year. If you have patients who may not be completely sold on the benefits of the flu shot, here are five important points to raise.
1. The flu shot helps reduce hospitalizations
According to CDC estimates, this flu season has already seen up to 3.7 million cases of the flu and up to 41,000 hospitalizations. These numbers will only increase as the season peaks in the next few months. Getting vaccinated early helps prevent cases of illness and any resulting complications — such as pneumonia and respiratory infections — that lead to hospitalization. The CDC recommends everyone aged six months and older ideally receive the flu shot before the end of October, but getting it later in the season is still encouraged.
2. It prevents the spread of disease
The flu vaccination protects more than just the person who receives it — the people around them are also protected from illness. This is particularly important for people who regularly interact with groups at a high risk of medical complications due to the flu. In this high-risk group are people aged 65 years or older, those with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, pregnant women, and children younger than five (but especially younger than two). Since those in the 65-plus age range have a weaker immune response to the flu virus, it is recommended that they receive a high-dose flu vaccine, which produces higher antibody levels in those who receive it.
3. It minimizes the severity of illness
When your patient gets a flu shot, it takes about two weeks for the antibodies that provide protection to develop. This is why the CDC recommends getting the vaccine either before flu season begins or shortly after it starts. In cases where people have fallen ill despite taking the flu shot, the vaccine has been shown to minimize symptoms and severity. Specifically, a 2018 study found that among adults hospitalized with the flu, those vaccinated were 59% less likely to be admitted to the ICU than those who had not been vaccinated. When there were cases in the ICU, vaccinated patients spent on average four fewer days in the hospital than those who had not received the shot.
4. The vaccine changes each year
People who have received a flu shot in the past still need to re-up every subsequent year. This is because flu viruses are constantly changing and vaccines may be updated from one year to the next. The seasonal vaccine protects against whichever flu strain is expected to be the most common during a given flu season. Also, the immune protection from vaccination declines over time but can be strengthened with a new vaccination.
5. It is covered by most insurances
If cost is a barrier, your patients should know that the flu vaccine is covered by most insurance plans with no copays for patients, making it a cost-effective option for many. It is also highly accessible since it is available at pharmacies and not just doctor’s offices or clinics.
There are additional steps your patients can take to protect themselves during flu season, but the flu shot remains the most recommended. If you need assistance reaching out to your patients about the flu vaccine during this ongoing flu season, contact us to learn how we can help.