Unsure About A Flu Shot? Ask A Smart 6-Year-Old
Last year’s flu season was one of the longest in the 40 years the government has been keeping track of the data. The season before was the deadliest, with about 80,000 people dying.
And still, fewer than half the people in the United States get a flu shot.
It’s hard to miss the reminders. They’re in pharmacies, doctors’ offices, grocery stores and on television. Some companies have days where their employees can get their flu shot on-site.
But, Dr. Kelli Wells said, getting a flu shot may still not be on someone’s radar for many reasons.
Whether a person gets a flu shot is sometimes influenced by their social circle.
“You become sort of entrenched in the particular thoughts in your particular group,” said Wells, Florida Blue’s senior medical director for medical affairs.
Others may not realize that a flu shot doesn’t just protect them. It also helps keep those around them safe by contributing to the herd immunity, which is when a large percentage of people are vaccinated and thereby, provide a level of protection for others.
Wells believes a small percentage of people no longer get a flu shot because they previously got the flu shortly after being vaccinated. They mistakenly believe the shot gave them the flu, which isn’t possible. In those cases, they were likely exposed to the flu either before getting their shot or during the two weeks it takes to build up their immunity afterward.
Once a person gets the flu, they are more inclined to get their shot, Wells said. The muscle aches, fatigue and fever aren’t likely to be forgotten.
“If you’ve had the flu, you don’t ever want to have it again,” she said.
Then there’s the group of folks who’ve never had the flu and believe they don’t need the shot. Until this year, I was in that group. I’ve had colds, even bad ones, but don’t remember ever having the flu in my 56 years.
This year, though, I had a pretty persuasive reason to get my first flu shot: A little boy named Gavin, who is wise beyond his six years.
He brags that he’s gotten a flu shot every year. And he brags even more that he’s only cried once. “I think the nurse didn’t really know what she was doing,” Gavin said, making his mom, Ashleigh, laugh and roll her eyes.
When Gavin says he’s going to do something he knows he shouldn’t do, his mother often tells him, “If you get hurt, don’t come crying to me.”
When I told Gavin that I had never gotten a flu shot and wasn’t getting one this year, his response should have been predictable: “If you get the flu, don’t come crying to me.”
I got my flu shot a few days later.
Annual flu shots are included as part of the coverage in most Florida Blue plans when they use a network doctor or pharmacy.
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