‘Tis the Season

My favorite season is fall, where the weather starts to become less stifling, the good television programming returns, and pumpkin spice lattes are back. School is back in session and parent’s finally get a reprieve from their kids (and vice versa). People start to gear up for the holiday season, by decorating their homes for Halloween and thinking about where they’re going for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Fall, however, is also a time in Florida where the snowbirds return for the winter. And I’m not talking about geese. It’s during these months that the traffic congestion starts to swell, it becomes impossible to find decent parking at the beach and the mall becomes unbearable. It also means that “La Gripa” is making its way back into our lives. “La Gripa” is perhaps the least appreciated medical illness out there. For those non-Spanish speakers out there, I’m referring to the flu. 

Every season, we read the reports from the CDC telling us about how deadly the flu season is, and every year, we, as doctors, get scolded for not vaccinating enough people against it. I hear it all. “I have an allergy to eggs” to “I get deathly ill from the vaccine” to “I don’t believe in the vaccine.” It’s becoming increasingly difficult to advocate for the vaccine when there is an anti-vaccine campaign that is out there in direct opposition to what we hope to accomplish. When I’m in a fifteen minute appointment with a patient and I’m arguing with them that they don’t need antibiotics for their cold, and they are still refusing to be vaccinated for influenza, you know that the anti-vaccine campaign is effective. 

Have you heard of the Spanish flu? Up to 50 million people died from this strain of the flu and over 500 million were infected over the course of one flu season. That’s more than the bubonic plague or World War 1. What about small pox? Small pox was another disease that claimed over 400 million souls. Now this disease is extinct thanks to a vaccine. The Spanish flu which is a variation of the flu that we know now is better controlled thanks to a vaccine. Yet, people still don’t understand the importance of why they should get their vaccines. So, this is my sales pitch. Here are the pros and cons of being vaccinated and why it’s important that you do, specifically for the flu. 

The pros: 1) you hopefully won’t get sick. The point of a vaccine, any vaccine, whether it’s the flu or shingles, is to prevent disease. While the overall effectiveness of certain vaccines vary, you will always confer some level of improvement with regards to your immunity in dealing with the actual illness. By the way, there is nothing else outside of washing your hands that will protect you against the flu. Forget about Vitamin C. Zinc. And definitely no antibiotics. Once you have the flu, you’re basically stuck with it. 2) You hopefully won’t get me sick. The more people that get the vaccine will improve the overall effectiveness of the vaccine through the phenomenon of herd immunity. What that basically means is that you can’t pass the flu to the next guy if that guy was vaccinated (at least that’s the hope). So, if you expand that idea, less people will ultimately transmit the flu if more people are vaccinated. 3) You hopefully won’t kill anybody. Obviously, the flu sucks, but if you’re young and generally healthy, it likely won’t kill you, but think about your sister’s new baby or your ninety-five year old grandmother with the rheumatoid arthritis. If they catch it, it’s likely going to lead to a hospitalization if not worse. 

The cons: 1) you might feel sick. This is true for any vaccine. As a natural result of trying to create immunity, you can develop an immune response, which translates to feeling congestion, a slight cough, a slight temperature. It’s a mild response when you compare it to getting the actual flu or polio (a virtually extinct disease as a result of the vaccine). 2) You might have an allergy, and by allergy, I mean like an anaphylactic reaction. I’m not talking about a cough or feeling sick as referenced in #1. If you do have a true allergy to a vaccine, there is nothing I can do about predicting that before you get the vaccine. Again, if everyone that can verifiably get their vaccine actually does then herd immunity will protect those that are unvaccinated. There really are no other cons, as far as I can see.

There are a lot of myths and misinformation about vaccines out there that can also be a hinderance to why you might not get them. No, you cannot get autism from a vaccine. No, you will not have organ damage as a result of a vaccine. Yes, chemicals are used to stabilize the vaccine, but no, they will not harm you. That being said, I hope come this fall, you are serious about getting your vaccines, particularly the flu vaccine as you are doing yourself and your neighbor a public service. I know I would appreciate it, so that I can spend the time on your health during the visit instead of trying to give you the sales pitch.

By: Dr. Juan Borja
For original post: https://yourdoctordad.com/tis-the-season/

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