If you were playing poker, calculated the odds and knew you had a 60 percent chance of winning the pot, would you make the call or fold?
Americans face a similar decision each autumn: whether or not to get vaccinated for the flu, or fold and hope not to get sick. Unlike the common cold, influenza is a serious viral illness. This week, we learned a little more about the odds that a flu shot or flu mist will protect those who receive it from the influenza viruses currently circulating.
Based on a review of selected, previously published studies, authors of the recent The Lancet Infectious Diseases article reported the flu shot was 59 percent effective against flu in healthy adults. This finding may be a surprise to some. But effectiveness ranges widely from season to season and can also vary depending on the health and age of the person being vaccinated.
This is why public health leaders, the federal government and industry are investing and supporting the development of new and improved influenza vaccines. Maximizing our protection against influenza also requires diligent attention to frequent hand washing and covering our mouths when we cough or sneeze. It’s all of these things to together that increase our odds of not getting influenza.
But the fact remains: vaccination is still the safest, most effective means for preventing transmission of the influenza virus and staying healthy. This is especially important for the very young, elderly and people with high-risk chronic health conditions. Scientific observational studies have demonstrated the value of influenza vaccines in this population time and again. And as this Time magazine piece notes, "59% is better than zero."
This flu season, don’t gamble with your health. Make the call and get protected from influenza by getting the flu shot or flu mist at your doctor’s office, local pharmacy, or dial 311 to find the nearest Health Department free clinic.
Take Care, Baltimore