Be a Flu Fighter

As a pediatrician, one of my most important jobs is preventing illness in my patients – and one of the most effective tools that I have at my disposal to perform that job is vaccination. Every year at this time, I feel like a broken record:

“Did you get your flu vaccine yet?”

“It’s that time of year for your flu vaccine!”

“You’re not sure about the flu vaccine? Let’s talk about some reasons why I strongly urge you to get your child vaccinated.”

I could go on…but I won’t. If you’ve ever wondered WHY your pediatrician seems so “pushy” about the flu vaccine this time of year, here are a few reasons why.

During the 2016-2017 Influenza season:

  • The CDC estimated that 30.9 MILLION people got the flu.
  • 14.5 Million people visited a health care provider for influenza related illness.
  • 600,000 people were hospitalized.

Now, that’s ALL ages…let’s look at children specifically:

  • <5 years of age: 2.32 Million cases of influenza; 1.56 Million doctor visits; 16,200 hospitalizations
  • 5-17 years of age: 6.15 Million cases of influenza; 3.2 Million doctor visits; 16,900 hospitalizations
  • 99 children under the age of 18 DIED from Influenza last year.

The CDC estimates that the flu vaccine prevented 5.29 MILLION illnesses, 2.64 MILLION medical visits, and 84,700 hospitalizations last year alone.

Now, the argument I hear so often (more times that I can count) is that “The flu vaccine isn’t that effective anyway, so why should we get it?” OR “We got the flu vaccine last year and then we got the flu, so I don’t want to get it again.”

Here’s the data on Influenza vaccination effectiveness in PREVENTING the flu:

Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness 2016-2017 season

Now I know, looking at those numbers might seem a bit discouraging (after all, don’t we want a vaccine that’s 100% effective in preventing disease…why yes, yes we would LOVE that), BUT check out this data:

In April 2017, the CDC released a study looking at data from 2010-2014 which showed that Influenza vaccine reduced the risk of death by 51% in children with underlying health conditions and by 65% among healthy children. Meaning – IF a child got Influenza they were MUCH LESS LIKELY TO DIE if they had been vaccinated.

During the study period (2010-2014), 358 children died from Influenza, however vaccine status was only known on 291 of those cases…of the 291 cases, 74% of them had NOT been vaccinated (that is 215 lives that COULD HAVE BEEN SAVED).

So the bottom line is this…does the flu vaccine absolutely guarantee that you or your child will not get the flu? Nope. Does the flu vaccine significantly reduce the risk that you or your child will have severe complications from influenza (including death)? ABSOLUTELY!

If that doesn’t convince you, here’s one more fun fact:

The CDC estimates that if we improve the influenza vaccination rate by 5% we could prevent:

  • 483,000 illnesses
  • 232,000 medical visits
  • 6,950 hospitalizations

So BE A FLU FIGHTER and get yourself and your child/children vaccinated today!