Flu vaccine should be your No. 1 priority

By: Hollie Bruce - Guest columnist

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Service has confirmed cases of the flu throughout the in recent months, and reminding residents that ours was among the states in the nation last season to report the flu.

With the holiday season here, many Rockingham residents are making travel plans, and getting ready for holiday office parties and big family gatherings. The holiday bustle — and colder temperatures — all add up to the perfect recipe for passing on, and catching, germs this season.

That’s why at Walgreens, we’re encouraging everyone ages 6-months and older to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible.* And getting the flu vaccine doesn’t just help protect you and your family: for every vaccination administered at one of your local Walgreens pharmacies, Walgreens will donate the value of a lifesaving vaccine to people in developing countries as part of our Get a Shot, Give a Shot campaign with the U.N. Foundation.

More good news: many insurance programs cover vaccinations, as does Medicare Part B — often with no or little out-of-pocket cost. For those still on the fence about the flu vaccine — or for those who think they’re too busy — we’ve debunked these common Top 5 Common Myths about the Flu Vaccine:

MYTH 1: You can get sick from the flu vaccine.

FACT: The flu vaccine isn’t manufactured with a live virus, so it cannot cause the flu. Sometimes patients may be exposed to the flu or other virus before receiving the vaccine, which can take up to two weeks to become fully effective. When someone gets sick, they mistakenly believe the vaccine was the cause. But that’s not the case. The most common side effects from the influenza vaccine are soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the injection and, in some cases, a low-grade fever, headache or muscle-ache.

MYTH 2: The flu vaccine isn’t always effective.

FACT: Simply put, the flu vaccine is the best protection you can get. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system to make antibodies, which can recognize and attack that specific strain of virus inside the body. The vaccine greatly reduces the chances of contracting the virus and, if contracted, may make the symptoms milder. It’s important to note that most flu vaccinations protect against strains that are respiratory in nature, not gastrointestinal, so if you still get the “stomach bug,” it doesn’t necessarily mean your vaccine was ineffective. Getting vaccinated may also help protect people around you who have a greater risk of serious illness, such as elderly people, patients with chronic conditions, pregnant women and young children.

MYTH 3: There’s no point in getting the flu vaccine if it’s later in the flu season.

FACT: Getting the flu vaccine, even later in the season, can still be beneficial. Oftentimes, there is a delay in the onset of the virus in different parts of the country. In recent years, according to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services, we’ve seen peak flu as late as January or even February. Because flu viruses are always changing, it’s important to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible.

MYTH 4: Everyone receives the same type of flu vaccine.

FACT: Each year, the seasonal influenza vaccine includes the strains that researchers found will be most prevalent throughout the season. This year, there is again an option for a Trivalent (3-strain) vaccine, which protects from the three most common flu strains, or the Quadrivalent (4-strain) vaccine, which includes one additional strain. There are also immune-boosting influenza vaccines for those aged 65 and above, and preservative-free versions for pregnant women or those who are allergic to mercury.

MYTH 5: Flu vaccines are only for really sick people.

FACT: Influenza certainly does not discriminate. It can cause serious complications or illness for those with chronic conditions, and healthy individuals are just as likely to catch the flu virus. Some people never show any signs of flu symptoms and may act as carriers of the virus, infecting their loved ones. In short, prevention is always better than cure; the best defense against the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine.

*In North Carolina, certified pharmacist immunizers are permitted to vaccinate for flu in patients ages 14 and older.

Hollie Bruce is a pharmacist at the Walgreens located at 1500 E. Broad Ave. in Rockingham.


Hollie Bruce

Guest columnist