Flu shots are necessary for individual, public health

By HEATHER NONNEMACHER ’17Contributing Writer (hnonnema@fandm.edu)

It was unnerving walking into an empty room in the College Center to get a flu shot — and not just because I was seconds away from having a needle in my arm. Where was everybody else? I’d like to assume that people simply get their flu shots elsewhere, but my experience begs to differ. I was surprised at the number of people adamantly against the prevention of a potentially lethal virus. Now, I fully understand that flu shots are unpleasant. And there are legitimate reasons not to get one, but there are a lot of illegitimate ones, too.

When I ask people why they don’t get vaccinated, many people say that they’ve never gotten a shot or the flu. And that obviously means they’re immune, right? Not so much. The flu is predictably unpredictable, meaning that the virus changes from year to year. Just because you’ve never gotten the flu before doesn’t mean that this year’s virus will be as forgiving, especially since you’re on a college campus and surrounded by people.

Another popular myth is that flu shots don’t even work. Or worse, they make you sick in the first place. It is true that flu shots aren’t 100 percent effective, but neither are any other vaccines. Like I said, the flu is unpredictable and the effectiveness of the flu shot varies just like the virus. But the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection. So you can’t get the flu from the flu shot.

Not convinced yet? Hypothetically, let’s say you don’t mind the fever, nausea, cough, sore throat, fatigue and other horrid flu symptoms. You’re not the least bit concerned about feeling sick enough to miss class or work. Complications that may result from the flu, such as pneumonia and bronchitis, have never even crossed your mind. Fair enough, but consider this: people get vaccinated not only to protect themselves, but to protect others.

Some people don’t feel obligated to get a flu shot because they believe they’re only hurting themselves if they don’t. But you’re able to pass on the flu to someone else before you even know you’re sick. So while your lack of concern for your own health is absolutely none of my business, I’m not a fan of putting others at risk, especially when there are undoubtedly people on this campus for whom it would be very dangerous to contract the flu. There are young children and older people who often attend Common Hour who you would be putting at risk by not getting vaccinated yourself. Maybe you’re a young, healthy individual, but there are people in your community who could die if they contracted the flu, which is indeed a deadly virus.

Whether or not you get a flu shot affects everyone. The more people that get vaccinated, the more effective the flu shot is going to be for you and for the people around you. Don’t rely on other people to get the flu shot and not spread the virus to you if you have the power to take action yourself. For the love of everyone in your F&M community, please get a flu shot.

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