Did you know getting your flu shot can potentially save lives? Immunologists refer to a term called “herd immunity” or “community immunity.” Meaning if a majority of the population is vaccinated against a specific illness, like the flu, it can reduce the entire community’s risk, particularly vulnerable populations. The more people who are vaccinated the better. It lessens everyone’s chance of exposure to the disease.
How does herd immunity work?
Nelson Yuen, M.D., a physician at Piedmont Urgent Care by WellStreet, uses the following example. Suppose 95 percent of people in a population get the flu shot and 5 percent do not. Someone who does not get the vaccination the gets the flu can infect others in that 5 percent. They are likely vulnerable populations, like the elderly, infants or those with compromised immune systems.
“When [vulnerable people] get it, the flu is much harder on them than on anybody else,” explains Dr. Yuen. “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 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 to those who did receive the shot. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this year’s flu vaccine is less effective than vaccines in years past because the virus has mutated. However, the CDC still encourages people to get vaccinated. 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 since the exact virus changes. But, you know you can reduce your risk and subsequently reduce other’s exposure. Someone you come in contact with may have the flu shot, but also have a weaker immune system, which 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 reduce your chance of getting the flu and passing it to others. When the majority of a population gets the flu shot, everyone wins. More people are protected and less get the virus. So fewer can pass it on.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Shot are available at Piedmont’s urgent care locations, primary care offices and at many pharmacies. Visit piedmont.org/now to learn more about how you can get care on your time, in good time.