Influenza Vaccination: Yes or No?

Did you get your influenza vaccination this year?  I did 🙂  And like every year, I had no ill effects from it.

This year I have had quite a few patients come in complaining of bad effects from the vaccine.  This year Parma hospital instituted a policy where all staff must show proof of vaccination or wear a mask during flu season whenever they are within six feet of patients. So this year I’ve had a number of patients get vaccinated for the first time.

I strongly recommend flu vaccination for anyone but especially for those at high risk of exposure to influenza and those who don’t have normal immune systems or respiratory function.  This includes schoolchildren, medical personnel, diabetics, asthmatics, and many other people.

That having been said, there are those who mustn’t receive the flu vaccine.  If someone is allergic to the vaccine, to egg or to latex, they can’t have the vaccine.  A past severe reaction to vaccine would make me anxious about giving it.

What are the possible reactions to flu vaccine?  There are the usual injection-site soreness, body aches and fatigue.  These side effects are direct results of the immune-system stimulation of the vaccine itself and are NOT “bad reactions” to the shot.  In fact, if you haven’t been vaccinated before (or haven’t in many years) these reactions are reassuring that the immune system is robust and responding properly.

There is a very serious, life-threatening reaction called Guillain-Barre syndrome caused by vaccination.  It is a neurological disorder that causes numbness and paralysis.  If someone has a family history of Guillain-Barre, they should not get the flu vaccine.

The risks of vaccination are very low.  Serious reactions happen but they are rare.  Influenza infection, however, is common and can be very serious.  Many people die every year from seasonal influenza.  It is particularly dangerous for the young and the old.

One last thing:  Many people are under misconceptions about influenza.  They think the “flu” is an illness that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  In reality, influenza is a pure respiratory illness.  It starts suddenly with a high fever, severe headaches and body aches, and a dry cough.  It generally lasts 7-10 days.  In the elderly and the very young it can cause complications such as pneumonia and respiratory failure.  Even young healthy people can die from it.

If you don’t have to get influenza, you shouldn’t get it.  If there’s no special reason you shouldn’t get the shot, you should get vaccinated.

Question:  Have you gotten the flu vaccine this year?

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