The Garcia family got our flu shots today.
We do every year, because we know that the flu is nothing to sneeze at. While influenza often just means a terrible couple of weeks of cold-type symptoms combined with awful muscle aches, not everyone who gets influenza experiences a mild case. In fact, over the past 10 years, influenza has killed about 35,500 Americans yearly (annual deaths range from 12K in 2011/12, by far the mildest season in the past decade, to 61K in 2017/18).
My own terrible experience with a “mild” case of the flu in college was enough to convince me that I NEVER wanted it again – but even if I was willing to get flu myself, I am aware that me getting the flu doesn’t just affect me. If I get the flu, I can also give others the flu – and others might not be as “lucky” as I was.
This year, it’s even more important that we not get and give the flu. An estimated 442,000 Americans end up in the hospital with the flu each year – and, this year of all years, if we can keep people out of the hospital and off of ventilators we should.
One common objection is that the flu shot is not 100% effective – this is true. Likewise, seatbelts don’t keep everyone from dying of car accidents and not smoking doesn’t keep everyone from dying of lung cancer – that doesn’t make them worthless. Flu shots remain a low-risk way to reduce risk of getting influenza. And, even when the influenza vaccine has relatively low effectiveness at preventing influenza infection, it still results in milder cases of influenza (which means fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths – still a win.)
So get your flu shots, people! Do it for yourself, do it for your neighbor.
The Garcia family did.
The data I shared regarding disease burden is from the CDC website. For science-based answers to common questions regarding the flu vaccine, check out the linked blog post from science journalist Tara Haelle at her blog Red Wine and Applesauce.