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Too Many People Are Planning to Skip Their Flu Shot This Year—Don’t Be One of Them

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Now that flu season is here—and expected to be pretty bad this season—public health experts are urging everyone to get the annual vaccine before the end of October. Apparently, more than half of American adults will ignore that guidance.

That’s the major takeaway from an annual survey conducted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), which included responses from more than 1,000 adults across the country. The takeaway? While most people believe the flu shot is the best way to protect themselves from getting sick, only 49% plan to actually get vaccinated this year.

Many people don’t plan on masking up either, even though infectious disease experts also expect an uptick in COVID-19 cases this winter; only 58% of people said they’ll wear a mask “at least sometimes” during flu season; meanwhile, 40% said they’ll wear a mask if flu or COVID cases are high in their communities and only 35% said they’ll wear a mask in crowds or large groups of people. (It’s worth noting that people who have been disproportionately affected by COVID, including Black people and women, say they are much more likely to mask up.)

Plus, lots of people haven’t even heard of the updated COVID-19 boosters. Couple that with the fact that plenty of people are going to have subpar flu protection, and you can reasonably assume you’ll be interacting with unvaccinated people frequently as the holidays approach.

So what now? First, and we can’t stress this enough: Just don’t be someone who rolls the dice with flu season. “The best way to protect yourself against influenza is to be vaccinated,” infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells SELF.

The flu shot isn’t perfect—but no vaccine is. That doesn’t mean they’re not useful; in fact, vaccines are one of the best tools we have to fight infectious diseases. Data from last year’s flu season shows the flu vaccine reduced people’s risk of getting sick by about a third, even though some of the circulating flu viruses were different from the virus used to make the vaccine. Getting your flu shot also lowers your risk of getting seriously ill if you do happen to get sick, experts stress.

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“The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctors visits each year,” Diana Finkel, DO, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells SELF. She cites data from the 2020-2021 flu season—the last one before the pandemic really hit, meaning no one wore masks at the time; researchers found that the vaccine prevented an estimated 7.5 million flu illnesses, 3.7 million flu-associated doctors visits, 105,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 associated deaths.

Of course, if you’re someone who already understands how important it is to get your flu shot, it’s understandable to wonder how protected you are if you’re vaccinated and people around you aren’t.

Source: Self

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