August is National Immunization Month. As scientists and medical experts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, many health care professionals are advocating for routine vaccination among people of all ages. The closer we get to October, health systems are preparing for difficult fall and winter months as coronavirus clashes with flu season.
Seasonal flu vaccine
Adults are strongly encouraged to get a seasonal flu vaccine every year to help keep themselves and their community healthy during flu season. The vaccine works by creating antibodies in the body to protect the individual from infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
From 2018-2019, 49.2 percent of Americans received the seasonal flu vaccine and 30.4 percent of Michigan residents were vaccinated, according to the Michigan State Medical Society. An estimated 740,000 Americans were hospitalized and 62,000 died from flu complications during the 2019-2020 flu season, according to the CDC.
Establishing heard immunity
Getting your annual flu shot is the easiest way to protect yourself and those around you from getting sick. With a flu shot, people who are young and healthy can help protect people in high-risk groups through “herd immunity.” Contagious diseases have a harder time spreading throughout the population (or our “herd”) the more people are vaccinated explains Henry Ford Health System.
Those at high risk of serious complications from the flu include people over 65, under age two, women who are pregnant, and those with chronic health conditions. These groups, as well as those who are not able to receive the vaccine, rely on herd immunity. “The most responsible thing any of us can do to protect these groups is get vaccinated,” says Andrea Smith, D.O., a family medicine specialist at Henry Ford Health System.
“Vaccines are a powerful force of health and health development, and their globalization is not just a business necessity but a public health obligation,” claims Julie L. Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H, executive vice president & chief patient officer at Merck.
If Michigan residents, specifically those in Southeast Michigan, continue to receive the vaccine at rates similar to 2019, metro-Detroit is in for a difficult flu season while battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is what you can do to protect yourself and those around you:
Reasons to get the flu vaccine this year
- It can prevent you from getting the flu. In 2017-2018, flu vaccines prevented 6.2 million cases, 3.2 million medical visits, 91,000 hospitalizations, and 5,700 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- It reduces your risk of having to visit the doctor’s office due to flu-related symptoms by 40 to 60 percent.
- It is a preventive tool for those with chronic diseases. Flu vaccines are associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes and chronic lung disease and contribute to lower rates of some cardiac events among those with heart disease.
- It can protect those around you, especially those who are at a higher risk for complications such as babies, young children, older people, and those with chronic illness, according to the CDC.
Depending on age, existing health conditions, job, and travel habits, other vaccines may be needed. The CDC created a convenient Adult Vaccine Assessment Tool to help determine what vaccines you may need.
Vaccines for children
Vaccines play an important role in determining the future health of children. Babies and very small children are especially susceptible to diseases, which makes vaccinating one of the most important items on the checklist in early life. Here is more information about recommended vaccines for your child.
Strategies for employers
Encourage employees to check with their health care provider to see if they are due for any vaccines and plan to get the flu vaccine this fall. By sharing educational resources about the importance of vaccinating and being flexible with schedules where possible, you can protect the health of your employees and community.