COLUMBIA CITY — Flu season. The threat of contracting the flu should come with its own ominous music. With severe symptoms and possible life-threatening complications, those in fear of the flu are arming themselves with vaccines.
In recent years, the push to vaccinate has been echoing through doctors’ offices as the health care profession has urged those at risk of getting Influenza to get a flu shot.
Dr. Lisa Hatcher is the health officer for Whitley County’s Health Department and is also a family practice physician.
She said, “Influenza is very contagious. The highest rate of infection is with kids and the elderly. There can be severe complications that especially affect children and the elderly, but also those women who are pregnant, those with heart issues and diabetes.”
According to Dr. Hatcher, some of the complications can lead to severe hydration and Pneumonia.
“In certain instances, it can lead to heart failure,” said Dr. Hatcher. “Every year people die from the flu and it is preventable. The vaccine works against the three highest strains of the virus.”
But some say the vaccine is not necessary. The Post & Mail asked Facebook readers to give their opinions of the flu shot.
Jodi Mikesell said, “We all get one every fall and none of us have gotten sick yet. One shot is better than weeks of sickness.”
On the other side of the argument, those choosing to not receive a flu shot have a variety of reasons to avoid the vaccine.
Laura Miller Tucker said she was not going to get a shot. “When I have gotten them in the past, I get more sick then when I haven’t gotten it,” she said.
Some reasons lie in the pocketbook.
Thomas Steiner said, “I can’t afford one.”
One common concern grows out of the actual ingredients in the vaccine. Some vaccinations are considered live, however most shots are comprised of three “dead” viruses. The viruses are made from the most probable strains for the current flu season.
Bianca Boles commented, “...There are chemicals and preservatives in the flu shot (mercury, formaldehyde...just to name a few).”
The question asked most and weighing heavily on the decision to vaccinate or not is, “Can I still get the flu, even if I’ve had the shot?”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the answer is, “Yes.”
That is Steiner’s concern. He said, “Why would I pay for something that does not keep me from getting sick? It is not a 100 percent cure for the body.”
The ability of the flu vaccine to protect a person depends on two things— One, the age and health status of the person getting vaccinated, and two, the similarity or “match” between the virus strains in the vaccine and those circulating in the community, according to the CDC.
The CDC also explained, “If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced.”
The CDC’s comeback to the possible loop-hole in the vaccine is, “However, it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different, but related strains of influenza viruses.”
Sarah Wolfe commented on Facebook, “Yes, my family gets the flu vaccine. True, it is not a guarantee that you won’t get sick, but there’s a chance that it will make it less likely and less severe.”
But health care professionals still feel it is better to be safe than sorry.
Doug Kincaid, a licensed pharmacist for CVS /pharmacy said, “Without the vaccine, it is easy to miss a lot of work or school because of being sick. Even if the strain isn’t exact, it is more likely to lessen the days the flu keeps you under. I know people say, ‘What’s the point if it’s not a guarantee.’ I say, there’s no guarantee a locked door will keep a burglar from breaking in my house, but I‘m still going to lock my doors.”
Sandy Kohut has been a school nurse with Whitley County Consolidated Schools for 15 years and is a registered nurse.
She said, “We nurses highly encourage staff and students to get a flu vaccine every year. Even healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time or even be hospitalized. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Why not protect yourself.”
In fact, the CDC recommends people be vaccinated sooner than later. Because it takes approximately two weeks after receiving a flu shot for the antibodies to develop, providing protection against the flu, the CDC advises people to get vaccinated as soon as 2012-13 flu season vaccine becomes available.
For those that stand on either side of the flu issue, Boles sums it up in her Facebook comment, “Oh well, to each his own.”
For more information on the flu vaccine, visit www.cdc.gov/flu .