Why I Believe in the Flu Shot

By Doug Lefton, MD

This season’s flu shot is now available, and you might as well get it soon. Although the peak month for the flu is February, flu season sometimes starts as early as October.

I’m a big believer in the flu shot. I’ve seen some pretty miserable patients with the flu.  Often this highly contagious disease just causes cold symptoms, but sometimes the cold symptoms are severe, with high fevers, muscle aches, sore throat, nasal congestion and hacking cough.

Particularly in more vulnerable patients, such as the elderly, young children, or people with chronic diseases, these symptoms can lead to pneumonia, and even death. Thousands of Americans die each year from the flu; 90% of them are elderly.

Because of its safety and effectiveness, the flu shot is now recommended for virtually everyone over age 6 months.

Despite the benefits of the flu shot, I do have patients who don’t want it. Most of them say one of two things:

  1. “I don’t get the flu.”  To which I say, “Did you have a bad cold last year?  That might have been the flu.”
  2. “I heard the shot can give you the flu.” This is not true, because the virus in the vaccine is killed virus.  What is true is that flu shots are given in the fall, which is also cold season. So some people coincidentally come down with a cold at some point after their flu shots—and blame it on the shot.

I am going to get the flu shot this year, and so will members of my family. I hope you will, too.