With September just around the corner, Briarpatch Pediatrics is getting ready for one of our busiest times of year: the dreaded flu season. Nobody wants to be sick, and especially not with the flu; that's why we strongly recommend parents and guardians bring their children in for the flu shot which can be done largely at their convenience in our Yarmouth or Sandwich offices. And it's not just us that advises patients get the flu shot annually: "CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone 6 months and older, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. The reason for this is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the “optimal” or best protection against the flu." Plus, it's now easier than ever to schedule your child's flu shot with MyChart, where patients and guardians are able to set up appointments online for up to one month out, or over the phone if an appointment further out is needed. Flu clinics in Sandwich are open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00am until 4:45pm, and in Yarmouth on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9:00am until 5:45pm and Sundays from 10:00am until 11:55am, so we're available for even the busiest schedules.
In spite of medical recommendations, false information surrounding the flu shot can make people wary of getting it, or having it administered to their children. Some of the biggest deterrents include fear that the vaccine can actually cause the flu (which is untrue), or that it does nothing at all, so why bother? To answer the first concern, the flu vaccine is either engineered with inactivated flu virus, meaning that it isn't live and cannot infect the receiver of the immunization, or with a single gene from the virus which prompts the body to develop immunity without the risk of infection. Those who do develop flu symptoms even after receiving the immunization may have been exposed before the two week period which it takes for an immunity to develop after getting the shot. Alternately, they could have been infected by a different type of flu than what was protected against in that year's vaccine or another respiratory illness which mimics flu symptoms such as rhinovirus or the common cold. "At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or “match” between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community." Even so, according to the CDC, "recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are well-matched to the flu vaccine. In general, current flu vaccines tend to work better against influenza B and influenza A(H1N1) viruses and offer lower protection against influenza A(H3N2) viruses." In short, it helps far more than it hurts to get the vaccine, and studies have shown that the flu shot lessens the severity of symptoms and length of time which the afflicted will experience the illness, so even if you do get sick, chances are that your illness will be easier to weather with the vaccine than without it.
If it comes down to the choice of contracting influenza unvaccinated or getting the shot, we'll say this: get the shot. The flu shouldn't be taken lightly, and can become serious, even in largely healthy children and adults — and especially so for infants, young children, the elderly, and people with asthma, diabetes, and heart conditions. A new CDC study conducted over four flu seasons from 2012 through 2015 showed how the vaccine prevented severe flu in many cases, with statistics proving that "Among adults who were admitted to the hospital with flu, vaccinated adults were 59 percent less likely to have very severe illness resulting in ICU admission than those who had not been vaccinated," and, "Among adults in the ICU with flu, vaccinated patients on average spent 4 fewer days in the hospital than those who were not vaccinated previously." Those numbers are hard to argue with.
If you still have flu questions, Briarpatch Pediatrics is here to answer them. Send us a message over MyChart, or give us a call today. Our medical staff is more than happy to help. There are so many reasons to get immunized against influenza, and Briarpatch Pediatrics makes it easy to do so — plus, we have stickers for afterwards! It's best to get the vaccine in September or October when the season is still new, but you can get the flu shot anytime that influenza is active, so be proactive and most importantly, stay flu-free! Give us a call or log on to MyChart to book your flu shot today.
Wishing everyone a healthy flu season!