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Achoo! The flu. Did you get your vaccine?


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So, yes it’s that time of the year. I’m hearing (reading) a lot of discussion about this year’s annual influenza (flu) vaccine. I’m getting a very ‘negative’ vibe lately for a strange reason? Maybe it’s the scare of 2009 (H1N1)? I’m not sure. All I do know is that the views of getting the annual flu vaccine are becoming quite skeptical. I think the media is part to blame for the scare last year and the ensuing doubts the general public has in regards to the effectiveness and need for the flu vaccine.

I read an interesting article on Better Health titled “Who Should Get A Flu Shot? You Should“. It goes on to talk about the 2010-2011 influenza vaccine, why doctors (and all health care workers) should get the vaccine and the 2009 scare:

These facts are far calmer than the news in the spring of 2009 when the appearance of a novel influenza virus had the world extremely anxious. Unlike other flu viruses, the swine flu or H1N1 virus was more easily contracted by young and healthy adults as well as infants, children, and pregnant women. Older adults seemed to be spared. A flu virus attacking young and healthy resulting in deaths raised concerns that perhaps this was the beginning of a pandemic much like the 1918 influenza pandemic which killed millions worldwide. Influenza or flu is not simply a bad cold.  It’s a viral illness that nationally causes tens of thousands of deaths.

When first signs of this new virus appeared in April 2009, scientists worked feverishly not only to identify it but also figure out how to create a vaccine to protect the public. The potential for millions of deaths worldwide was a significant possibility. By the fall, a new vaccine was available. Because of the time it took to determine the viral DNA sequence, it was not included in the 2009-2010 flu vaccine combination batch. Patients would need to get a separate flu shot in addition to the traditional one.

That is when the firestorm of controversy occurred. Instead of being grateful that scientists that a new vaccine was produced in record time, concerns of about safety appeared. In addition on the initial rollout, there was inadequate or uneven supply of vaccine which resulted in lines of people waiting for a limited supply of vaccine. People were being turned away. To add to the uncertainty, the optimum dosage of vaccine to be given to children wasn’t initially clear. All of this didn’t help allay fears. ”Deadly virus about to kill millions. Untested vaccine rushed to production.”

None of these stories panned out. Fortunately the H1N1 pandemic wasn’t as deadly as initially feared.

Not many individuals are aware that the H1N1 strain (from 2009) is included in this years annual influenza vaccine: (From the CDC)

The 2010-2011 vaccine provides protection against A/H1N1 (pandemic) influenza and two other influenza viruses — influenza A/H3N2 and influenza B. It will not prevent illness caused by other viruses.

In the end, for nurses and all other health care workers it’s a personal preference versus professional duty decision. Do you get the virus? And why?

Why do we urge our patients to get it, yet not get the vaccine ourselves? What if the vaccine became mandated for all health care workers?

More questions answered with more questions. It’s a vicious cycle. I think in the end it’s all about being an informed patient (external and internal). Be sure to gather and understand all the facts and make an informed and educated decision based on what is best for you personally. I for one am one of those individuals that doesn’t necessarily need to get the flu vaccine. I’m still (considered) young (age < 50), I am in relatively good health (at least I think so), my immune system is strong (I don’t remember the last time I was actually sick), I exercise, I eat right, and I don’t have any debilitating chronic medical conditions – all roughly taken from the CDC recommendations. Yet, I still get vaccinated every year. I for one rather have that small percentage of resistance than gamble with the virus wreaking havoc on me and my health. But, once again it is a personal choice (at the present time).

Here are some links of interest concerning the 2010-2011 influenza vaccine from the CDC:

Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

2010-2011 Flu Season Facts

Seasonal Flu Shot Facts

Will you be getting the flu vaccine this year?

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