09/17/2019 Study Confirms the Importance of Getting the Flu Vaccine

Guest author Bryan Lowery, MD

Study Confirms Importance of the Flu Vaccine

A common question I get around this time of year from my patients is whether or not I think they should get flu shots. The short answer is yes. I’ve always encouraged my patients to get the flu shot, especially if they have certain chronic conditions, are older, pregnant or are very young, in accordance with CDC guidelines. I’m always surprised by how many people push back or who feel that the flu vaccine will make them sick or won’t work. It’s been my experience that the patients who receive the flu shot have a healthier flu season over all, and a recent study backs up my experience.

Flu vaccine study

The CDC supported a recent study spanning four flu seasons, to take a look at whether or not the flu vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalizations and admission into the ICU and whether or not it reduced the severity of illness. The study found that the flu vaccination reduced the risk of being admitted into the general ward of the hospital by 32% and the ICU by 82%.

A common push-back I get from my patients is that they or someone they know still got the flu after receiving the vaccination.  This study showed that among adults who had the flu shot and still got the flu:

  • They were 59% less likely to have a severe enough illness to land in the ICU compared to those who were not vaccinated
  • They spent on average 4 fewer days in the hospital compared to those who were not vaccinated1

So, yes, you may still get the flu, but it’s very likely that the severity will be decreased if you’ve had the vaccine.

Additionally, here are a few other facts to know. The CDC says the shot:

  • Is safe for everyone over 6 months’ old,
  • Does not cause the flu,
  • Must be received annually in order to provide protection, and
  • Needs about two weeks to become effective.

Dr. Lowery’s other flu prevention tips

Many things in addition to the flu vaccine can help reduce your risk of contracting the flu and other illnesses this season. Most importantly, avoid spending time with people who are ill, and if you feel sick, prevent the spread of illness by remaining home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides, without the use of fever-reducing medications. Practice these tips to maximize protection:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with the crook of your elbow or shoulder. If you use a tissue, be sure to toss it in the trash right away.
  • Increase your frequency of regular, soap-and-water handwashing. Keep a small bottle of alcohol-based hand cleaner in your purse or bag for when you don’t have handwashing access.
  • Reduce the spread of germs by limiting how often your touch your mouth, nose and eyes.
  • For high germ traffic areas, like doorknobs and handles, consider cleaning more often during flu season.
  • Maintain your overall health to keep your immune system strong: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy foods, and build in time every day to enjoy an activity that reduces your stress\

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Still sick?

Even the best prevention can sometimes miss the mark. Symptoms of flu may range from mild to severe and can often mimic those of other colds and viruses. Look out for the most common symptoms: fever or chills, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headaches and fatigue. In contrast the gradual onset of cold symptoms, flu symptoms typically appear very abruptly.

Most flu sufferers will feel better after a few days, but sometimes complications can occur. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor with concerns. Seek care immediately for:

  • Anyone who experiences troubled or fast breathing, pain or pressure in chest, confusion or extreme lethargy.
  • Anyone who shows signs of dehydration, such as tearless crying or decreased urination.
  • Children who have trouble waking up, are less interactive or have a fever with a rash.

Don't wait

Last year’s flu season was deadly and prolonged, and this year’s flu season is already here.  Don’t wait to protect yourself and loved ones.

About the author:

Dr. Lowery is a board-certified family physician with nearly 20 years of experience. He considers himself an old-fashioned family doc who utilizes the latest medical treatments to ensure the most compassionate, personal and high quality medical care. You can learn more about him by visiting his website at friscoconciergemedicine.com/. He writes for Combined Insurance in an effort to help educate readers, but his medical opinions and advice are for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for visiting your doctor.


1 “Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness in Preventing Influenza-Associated Intensive Care Admissions and Attenuating Severe Disease among Adults in New Zealand 2012-2015”, by Mark G. Thompson, PhD, Nevil Pierse, PhD, Q. Sue Huang, PhD, Namrata Prasad, MPH, Jazmin Duque, MPH, E. Claire Newbern, PhD, Michael G. Baker, MD, Nikki Turner, MD and Colin McArthur MD. DOI: (sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0264410X18309976?via%3Dihub ). It appears in Vaccine, (In press, Corrected proof) published by Elsevier.

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