Should you still get the flu vaccine even though you just suffered through the flu? Absolutely. Here are the reasons:
The current epidemic of the flu is from Influenza A (subtype H3N2). It has been nasty resulting in deaths of otherwise healthy adults. However, there are still other three other flu viruses that are coming.. They include another influenza A (H1N1) and two influenza B viruses.
Influenza B has started to make an appearance and may peak in its season sometime between February and May of this year. The current vaccine protects against to two subtypes of Influenza B.
The most vulnerable are the elderly and the young – and while the current epidemic seems to hit all age groups, even the most healthy – the most vulnerable remain the elderly and the children. There have been over 20 pediatric deaths this year alone.
If you get the vaccine your risk of death from the flu, as well as hospitalization and sick days off are greatly diminished. There is no better preventive medicine against the flu, including Tamiflu, than getting vaccinated.
One third of people who become infected with the flu do not have symptoms, but they are still contagious. They can pass that flu on to children and elderly without knowing it.
By getting vaccinated you increase “herd” immunity – the more people who are vaccinated the less chance those who cannot get vaccinated (newborns, people who cannot take the vaccine, and the elderly). It is the right thing to do.
You do not get the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine is made from non-living proteins, not live virus. The chances of getting the flu from the vaccine are the same as getting mauled to death by a polar bear rug.
Be a responsible citizen, get vaccinated. It is the best thing you can do for your health and the best thing you can do to prevent spread of the next flu viruses to those who are most vulnerable.
It was the end of October and I was upset that I had not yet received the vaccine. At a hospital board meeting in Alaska the nurse came into the room and announced that anyone who wanted a vaccine could get one. I was the first in line. I was worried that I might be a bit late. The flu had started to make its evil presence known in Arizona, with several deaths among children in the valley. I knew the vaccine took a couple of weeks before it would be at full force, so I was happy to get it and hoped it would not be too late.
When I returned to Arizona my wife and I made an appointment for our 7 year old son to get the flu shot, and I hoped it wouldn’t be too late for him. I asked my wife if she had received a vaccine, she had not. She didn’t get the vaccine until two weeks before Christmas, five days before the in-laws came.
Influenza hit our house in December, when my father-in-law came to visit. He started with a cough and it quickly became worse. He had not been vaccinated, heading the usual, “First time I didn’t get a flu shot.” In his 70’s and with heart disease, I asked him to see a fellow physician who prescribed Tamiflu. Not as good as a vaccine, it is one of our best options for those at high risk. He felt better in two days, in spite of having nausea and vomiting from the Tamiflu. Then his wife came down with symptoms, then his son who was visiting from college, then my wife, then me.
I didn’t have too bad a course, one day I felt poorly, and had a cough for about a week. My wife, on the other hand, had a horrible time with it. In the middle of our vacation became very ill and could hardly walk. She recovered, but then developed it again on the last day of our vacation, having to spend it in bed in Amsterdam with a fever and cough that caused her chest to hurt. Most in Amsterdam speak English quite well, but if you go to the pharmacy you will discover that the medicines are all in Dutch. Thankfully the pharmacist was quite helpful to find some cough medicine that provided some relief for my wife as well as their version of Tylenol. She felt a bit better, but sadly spent her last night in the city in bed before getting on a plane for the long ride home. My wife’s vaccination came too late.
Our son, on the other hand, had no issues at all. He enjoyed spending time with his sick grandparents, going to school, laughing and playing – enjoying the benefit of a flu shot.
Still, there are three other influenza viruses that are expected to hit Arizona in the next few months. I am glad I had the flu shot, because while this last virus (H3N2) was pretty bad, with a lot of deaths, at least I have good immunity against the next three influenza viruses that will hit our shores.
Dr. Terry Simpson
Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. He found he liked people more than petri dishes, and went to medical school. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine. The first surgeon to become certified in Culinary Medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.” For media inquiries, please visit www.terrysimpson.com.