Flu shots can protect yourself and your community

Flu shots can protect yourself and your community

While it still remains important for people with comorbidities and those in high risk groups to receive the flu vaccine, people who are otherwise healthy should also make it a priority.

Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine yearly, said Dr. Tatiana Petrikova, a doctor of family medicine at Aurora Health Center. Not only can it prevent a trip to ER or urgent care, by getting a vaccine, it also protects against getting the virus altogether. Recovering from influenza can leave you vulnerable to other conditions because of increased inflammation in your system. Dr. Petrikova explained.

“It’s really important for healthy people to get the influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Gregory Sehring, a doctor of family medicine at Aurora Family Medicine. “There is a perspective if you’re healthy and young that it may not be a huge threat, but it does affect everyone differently and the vaccine is the best way for everyone to protect themselves.”

Not only does the flu vaccine prevent flu-related deaths and hospitalization, it also lessens the severity should you get it. But the benefits extend beyond just individual protection. The flu vaccine also encourages herd immunity, which helps protect the community and those who cannot receive the vaccine because of allergies or too young.

“It is important to get a vaccine to protect others,” Dr. Petrikova said. “When healthy person declines a vaccine it creates a risk for others in their community.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes lungs, resulting in symptoms like fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

Because the flu virus evolves each year, it’s important to receive the vaccine each year as it is modified to keep up with the changes of the virus as last year’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses, Dr. Petrikova said.

“More than ever, I would encourage everyone to get vaccinated, not just for influenza but the COVID vaccine as well, that’s going to be our best protection during the pandemic,” Dr. Sehring said. “The more we can protect individuals through vaccination, the more it’s going to keep people healthy and prevent overwhelming the healthcare system.”

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