There is one effective way to encourage more Americans to get a flu shot: Tell them there is a shortage of the vaccine.
In 2009, when the H1N1 flu was killing thousands, Americans stood in line to get inoculated. Fear is a great motivator. When there isn’t enough of something, people want it.
Well, there is not a shortage of seasonal flu vaccine this year. But people should pretend there is — and get a shot. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones who snatched up the chance to help protect yourself against an illness that leads to the deaths of thousands of Americans each year.
We live in an age when vaccines can prevent deaths from diseases. Don’t take it for granted; take advantage of it.
Get vaccinated for selfish reasons. No one wants to be feverish, aching and fatigued. For those with weakened immune systems, the flu can lead to more serious health problems. This year the A/H3N2 strain has cropped up around the country and sickened a few Iowans. The virus will spread.
Now that it's colder, people will spend more time indoors together. More of us will get sick. Most of the time seasonal flu peaks in January, February or later, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So now is the time to get vaccinated.
If you don't do it for yourself, do it for those around you. If you can avoid getting the flu, you won't spread it to your children or coworkers. If you have a job working with the elderly or others with a high risk of complications, you have a special obligation to try to stay healthy.
Longer term, getting inoculated helps ensure there is an adequate supply of vaccine in coming years. The flu vaccine changes every year, as it’s formulated for the anticipated strains of flu that will be circulating.
Manufacturers base how much they make on what they think Americans will use. If people don’t get shots, the extra vaccine is discarded. Having to throw too much away may prompt manufacturers to produce less, which can contribute to shortages in future years.
Many people don't take the flu seriously. They think of it like the common cold and figure that even if they do get sick from it, it won’t be a big deal. Maybe it won't. Or maybe it will.
The impact on individuals is unpredictable. Complications can include pneumonia, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes. And it can lead to death.
"The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccine each season," according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For a few minutes and a few dollars, you can better your odds for having a healthier winter.
Copyright, Des Moines Register. Reprinted with permission.