November 25, 2016

Time To Get Your Flu Shot

Entrance to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control
Entrance to the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
An earlier version of this post appeared on the Mississippi Atheists blog in 2015. It has been edited for re-posting here.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, less than half of Americans get a flu immunization each year (reported in the Jackson Free Press). Are that many people afraid this vaccine could give them Autism? Or maybe they have an alternative means of escaping the flu.

But seriously, I admit that there have been a couple of years when I forgot to get my flu shot. This is unwise since I work in a busy university setting where I can count on being exposed to nearly every contagious illness that seems to sweep through the students, staff, and faculty. I need to get my shot not just because I don't want to get sick (which I don't) or because my doctor recommends it (which he does) but also because I don't want to spread it to others. Perhaps I do have a bit of humanism in me after all.

The older I get, the more likely I am to get an annual flu shot. That's because I've found that getting the flu seems to be a worse experience as I age. It used to be the sort of thing I'd recover from after a few days; now it is almost always a full week or more. I used to be able to function at least to some degree when I had the flu; however, the last time I had it, it really knocked me on my ass.

Influenza vaccines are not always effective, and some people do experience some unpleasant side effects. I got my shot a couple weeks ago. Like usual, I experienced some mild soreness at the site of the shot and felt a bit tired for a couple days. I'll gladly put up with a couple days of mild pain in my shoulder and some minor fatigue in the hope that I can escape the flu and make it less likely that I'll spread it to others.

The Mississippi Department of Health recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive the flu vaccine. My guess is that health departments in other states are suggesting the same. If you haven't gotten around to getting your shot yet, now is the time to do so.