Getting your annual flu vaccination is more important this year than ever

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By Dr. Timothy & Melissa Quinn
Jackson Advocate Guest Writers

During a telephone call with a patient, I encouraged him to allow us to provide his flu vaccination during his scheduled appointment on September 1st. He reminded me of how difficult it was to persuade him to get the Covid-19 vaccination and how he was against vaccinations due to his perceived high risks associated. My patient, who we will refer to as Mr. Jones, was adamant that he did not need another vaccination. I have had an increased number of patients that have expressed the same resistance in regards to receiving their influenza vaccinations this year. This is partially impacted by the resistance campaigns of the Covid-19 vaccinations.

We medical providers have to educate our patients on the increased benefits of receiving vaccinations, including the influenza vaccine. We have to continue to provide them with the factual data to allow them to make educated decisions in regards to their healthcare decisions. In my conversation with Mr. Jones, I shared that this year is more important than ever to get the flu vaccination, and the fact that the recommended time to receive this vaccination is September through the end of October. The healthcare system, including hospitals, are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, resulting in reduced available treatment options for those that contract the flu. There is always the risk of contracting both the flu and Covid-19 at the same time which could be more difficult to treat. I told Mr. Jones that the flu season is usually from October until May, and getting his shot now would provide him with the protection (which according to the CDC reduces your chances of contracting flu from 40% to 60%) to avoid contracting the flu.

When Mr. Jones asked about his child, I informed him that patients can start receiving this vaccine at six months of age, and I strongly encourage this vaccination for youth and elderly patients because they are more vulnerable to becoming ill from contracting the flu.

The CDC has stated that it is safe to get the flu and Covid-19 vaccinations at the same time. This may be the most efficient and convenient method for many in need of both vaccinations.

Finally, the flu season of 2020/2021 had the lowest number of flu cases in the last ten years. The researchers credited many factors, including the highest influenza vaccination rates prior to and during the start of the 2020/2021 flu season and the Covid-19 mitigation measures of social distancing, face masks, remote learning, working from home, and increased cleaning and disinfection protocols.

If the potential health benefits of receiving a yearly flu vaccination aren’t enough to get the shot, the monetary consequences for avoiding the shot may be more intriguing. The monetary consequences are not limited to individuals but their employers as well. These consequences are a result of vaccination avoidance as well as the illness that may come as a result of avoiding preventative measures.

A multitude of illnesses can be avoided by vaccines. In 2015, failure to receive these vaccines collectively cost individuals nearly $9 billion in the United States. In the same year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that the loss in productivity cost employers over $200 billion. Keeping the workforce healthy is critical to the U.S. economy. It is estimated that a person that contracts the flu loses an average of one week from work – this results in nearly $1,000 of lost wages in the United States.

While a yearly vaccination may not be the cure-all for every illness, it can be a potential cure-all for the burden of some unplanned medical costs. One other thing to consider, if the monetary costs are not enough to encourage you to get a flu vaccine, is the risk of you or a loved one losing their life.

My conversation with Mr. Jones ended with him requesting that our clinic schedule his entire family for their flu vaccinations.