The easiest, safest and most effective way to protect yourself against the flu this winter is to get vaccinated. Not only will this protect you and your family, it is also the most effective way to stop the virus from spreading throughout the community.
Influenza or as it’s more commonly know ‘the flu’, is a major cause of illness throughout Australia.
The flu not only affects an individual’s personal health, it can also have alarming consequences for organisations, businesses and the community. Each year, the flu costs Australian businesses more than $2 billion, with an estimated 1,500,000 workdays lost each year due to the illness. There is also a direct correlation between the flu and high rates of absenteeism and lower rates of productivity throughout the winter months.
Unlike a cold, the flu can last for a week or more and individuals can feel fatigued for a period of two to three weeks. The influenza virus is highly contagious, with the infection transferring from person to person before noticeable symptoms are present.
Now, the stats are alarming, yet there are still many who avoid getting vaccinated for the flu shot because of a variety of common misconceptions.
What’s Your Excuse?
Getting vaccinated is never fun and it’s not the highlight of anyone’s day but that shouldn’t be enough to stop you from getting the flu shot this winter. We have tried to debunk some of the common misconceptions so that you can make informed and educated decisions around whether or not you will get vaccinated this flu season.
“The Flu Isn’t That Bad”
While the short-term effects of the flu can include feeling sick, high temperatures, aching muscles and an upset stomach, it’s important to remember that the flu can develop into a much more serious illness like pneumonia, even in those who are otherwise completely healthy people. Influenza alone causes an average of in Australia each year and is responsible for 18,000 hospitalisations as well as 300,000 doctor consultations.
Complications from the flu can also lead to multi-organ failure, sepsis, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues as well as worsening chronic medical problems (asthma and heart disease).
“The Flu Vaccine Makes You Sick”
This is one of the more common myths. The flu shot contains a small amount of inactive virus which is killed during the manufacturing process.
Simply put, it is not possible for the vaccine to give you the flu.
Common side effects of the flu vaccine include: feeling tired; muscle aches; pain and swelling at the injection site, and a low-grade fever.
“Last Year’s Flu Shot Will Protect Me This Year”
Vaccinations are not the same each year because the flu virus evolves each year requiring a new vaccine to be made…
The new vaccinations released each year have been designed to protect you from the most common flu viruses expected to be active within the upcoming season. That means the vaccine you had last year may not protect you from catching the virus this year.
Even if the virus was exactly the same, your body’s immune response from the vaccination actually declines over time, therefore it cannot protect you from the virus over multiple seasons.
“I’m Healthy So I Don’t Need It’
Anyone can catch the flu – the flu doesn’t discriminate. While you might be healthy, you could endanger someone who is unable to get vaccinated. That’s why it’s vital to get a vaccination if you are surrounded by people who are at a higher risk for complications.
There are many people who don’t even show symptoms of the virus or have a mild illness, so it is possible that you could get infected and not even know it. Getting the flu shot is essential for your health, but it is also just as important for the people around you.
“Catching The Flu Will Make Me Immune”
Some people believe that the virus will give them immunity when the next time the flu comes around. Unfortunately having the flu will not give you protection the following year as the virus will change.
Who Should Get The Flu Shot?
Receiving an annual vaccination is recommended for anyone six months of age and older but it is particularly imperative for people who have a heightened risk for developing serious flu complications.
Pregnant women, people older than 65 years, anyone with chronic medical conditions and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders over 6 months old face a greater risk and should prioritise receiving the flu shot. These people are also eligible for the National Immunisation Program’s free flu shot.
Those who work around people that are at a higher risk should also vaccinate themselves to prevent the illness from spreading. This includes:
- people who live or work in aged care homes or long-term facilities
- healthcare workers
- people who live or work in the same household as someone who is at high risk of serious disease from influenza
- people who work in early childhood education and care
- new mothers and mothers that are breastfeeding
- people who work in the chicken or pig industries, if there is an outbreak of bird flu or swine flu
Who Shouldn’t Get The Flu Shot?
There are very few exceptions. People who shouldn’t receive the flu vaccine, including infants under 6 months old, people with certain medical conditions, people who are significantly immunocompromised (undergoing a treatment that suppresses the immune system i.e. chemotherapy), people with a history of Guillain-Baree syndrome (GBS), as well as anyone else with severe allergies to vaccine ingredients.
If you or anyone you know have any of the above conditions, talk with your GP about what the best course of action is and whether the vaccination is an option for you.
In reality, if there are no medical reasons that preclude you, there really are no good excuses for skipping your annual vaccination for the flu.