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Why it's important to get the flu shot this year (and every year)

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Do you and your family get the flu shot every year? It's a simple, affordable and safe way to boost your family's protection and reduce the risk of spreading the flu, which costs the United States billions of dollars every year in direct medical expenses and lost wages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Keep reading to learn more about vaccines and why they're a great tool to have in your healthy family toolkit this fall and winter.

How do vaccines work?

Vaccines date as far back to the late 1700s, when the first smallpox vaccine was developed. Vaccine technology has evolved a lot in that time, and today we have vaccines that effectively protect against a wide range of viruses that cause illnesses like polio, the measles and the seasonal flu.

Vaccines contain small fragments of a virus that cause a certain illness. The bits of virus in a vaccine are weakened or dead, so they won't actually make you sick. Instead, they trigger your immune system (your body's defense) to create molecules called antibodies. Antibodies help your body recognize and quickly fight off the virus if you come in contact with it in the future.

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months gets a seasonal flu shot each year for two main reasons:

  1. Your body's immune response to the flu vaccine decreases over time, so getting the shot annually provides optimal protection every year.
  2. The virus that causes the flu is constantly evolving, so flu vaccines are updated in order to provide the best possible protection against the evolving strains which are making people sick.

Contrary to what many conspiracy theorists say, vaccines are considered overwhelmingly safe for the vast majority of people, including children, seniors and pregnant women. Like any medication, vaccines can come with a risk of side effects, but these are generally temporary and mild. More serious adverse reactions have been reported, but they are rare and treatable.

Benefits of getting the flu shot

Getting the flu shot is a good decision for more reasons than you may realize. Here are three benefits as discussed by the CDC.

  • Reduce the risk of the flu: The most obvious benefit of getting a flu shot is that it reduces your risk of catching the flu. According to the CDC, flu vaccines prevented at least 4.4 million people from getting sick with the flu during the 2018-19 season. Not getting sick can also help you avoid the hassle of missed work, lost wages or childcare issues. 
  • Reduce the risk of hospitalizations and death: There is still a small chance of getting the flu despite receiving the flu vaccine, but a flu shot greatly decreases your illness severity and duration, risk of complications and hospitalization. If more people get the flu shot, the virus that causes the flu has a harder time spreading. This prevents more people from having severe complications, including hospitalization and death.
  • Help conserve medical resources: Flu shots help keep people healthier and out of the hospital. This actually conserves essential medical supplies, personnel and other resources so people who are sick with other illnesses can get the care they need. This is more important than ever as we enter the current flu season with COVID-19 pandemic still going on!

Get your flu shot this year

Our team at SIU Medicine can provide flu shots, wellness exams and anything else your family needs to stay healthy this flu season. Contact us at 217-545-8000 to schedule an appointment today.

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