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Getting your flu shot can save others

Did you know getting your flu shot can potentially save lives? Immunologists refer to a term called “herd immunity” or “community immunity,” which means the majority of a population is vaccinated against a specific illness – in this case, the flu – thereby reducing the entire community’s risk, particularly vulnerable populations. The more people who are vaccinated, the better because it lessens everyone’s chance of exposure to the disease.

As the Surgeon General noted, everyone who has died from the flu caught it from someone else.

How does herd immunity work?

Suppose 95 percent of people in a certain population get the flu shot and 5 percent do not. Someone who does not get the vaccination and subsequently gets the flu can infect others in that 5 percent – and they are likely vulnerable populations, like the elderly, infants or those with compromised immune systems (such as people undergoing chemotherapy).

When vulnerable people get it, the flu is much harder on them than on anybody else. You can see how not getting it can definitely affect even that 5 percent of people who didn’t get it.

The flu shot’s effectiveness

It is also important to keep in mind that while the flu shot significantly reduces the risk of contracting the flu, it is not 100 percent effective. Therefore, if you don’t get the shot and contract the virus, you can pass it along to even those who did receive the shot. The CDC still encourages people to get vaccinated because the shot can lessen the severity of flu symptoms and protect against other strains of the virus. 

Why get the shot if it’s not 100 percent effective?

It reduces your risk of the virus. It’s hard to know exactly how effective the vaccine will be each flu season because the exact virus changes, but you can reduce your risk and subsequently reduce other people’s exposure. Someone you come in contact with may have the flu shot, but may also have a weaker immune system that still makes them susceptible to the virus. Getting vaccinated helps protect others and yourself.

Unless your physician advises you otherwise, it is wise to get a flu shot to drastically reduce your chance of getting the flu and passing it along to others. When the majority of a population gets the flu shot, everyone wins – more people are protected and less people actually get the virus, so fewer can pass it on.

Flu shots are available at Piedmont’s urgent care locations, primary care offices and Piedmont QuickCare at Walgreens locations.   

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