Op-Ed: It’s Time to Get your Flu Shot!


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It’s Time to Get Your Flu Shot

By: Jeffrey Holzberg, MD
Pediatrician, Chiricahua Community Health Centers, Inc.

Winter is coming. Parents may have bad memories of last year’s winter which brought many sleepless nights holding their fussy child. There was lots of coughing, sneezing, runny noses, vomiting and fevers. Children miss school and parents miss work.

As a pediatrician in Douglas with Chiricahua Community Health Centers, I remember last winter when the flu became more common than the typical cold. Children started to come in with fevers of 103 degrees, full body aches, vomiting and cough. We knew it was different from a normal cold because the fevers lasted for 5-7 days and the coughing for almost 2 weeks. Some of the children had to go to the hospital, which is rare for the typical cold.

The flu vaccine. Almost every child who I saw last year for the flu did not get the vaccine. And we were getting nearly one new case of flu per day in December and January. And we were getting nearly one new case of flu every other day in Sierra Vista from January to March 2018. In fact, 81% of the children diagnosed with flu at the Chiricahua clinic did not receive their flu vaccine. That means that the flu vaccine either protected the child from catching the flu or the fever and cough were not severe enough to come to clinic. Last year, 179 children in the United States died from the flu, and 80% of those children did not get the flu vaccine.

Side effects from the flu vaccine are rare. Yet there is a common belief that you can get sick or even catch the flu from the vaccine. This is not true. The shot contains a killed or manufactured virus so it is impossible to catch the flu from the vaccine. The most common side effect is pain at the injection site. Fever occurs within 24 hours of the vaccine in less than one out of three children less than 2 years old, and rarely in people older than 2. Compared to the 1 to 2 weeks of missing school because of cough, fussiness and fevers, the vaccine is worth the risk.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age. If your child has never gotten the flu vaccine and they are less than 9 years old, then they will receive 2 doses administered one month apart. Otherwise, they only need one flu vaccine per year. It is safe to give to people with egg allergies.

There is unfortunately not a good treatment for the flu. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, which are different from bacteria and do not respond to antibiotics. Tamiflu is an anti-virus medication that cannot treat the flu but can make your child feel better and should be given within 2 days of getting sick. It is important to remember that the flu vaccine does not prevent all types of colds, but rather just colds caused by the influenza virus.

Last year was one of the worst years for the flu since 2004. I remember telling parents that their child would not be so sick if they had gotten the flu vaccine, and they promised to get the vaccine this year. I know that your family will be safer if everyone gets vaccinated. Please protect your children from the flu and visit the Chiricahua clinics, another medical office or a local pharmacy today for your flu vaccine.

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