Did you know between 12,000 and 56,000 children and adults die of the flu every year?
Flu season is in full swing, and the CDC dedicates the first full week of December to reminding everyone 6 months and older that it’s not too late to get your flu shot. Although National Influenza Vaccination Week has passed, it’s important to keep fighting flu throughout the season — especially as this flu season is predicted to be particularly serious.
Here at People’s Community Clinic, Immunization Supervisor Chelsea Watson does everything she can to fight flu, ensuring that our patients are vaccinated against this serious, and sometimes deadly, virus.
In your role, how do you prepare for flu season each year?
As the primary vaccine coordinator for our clinic, I help to make sure that we have enough vaccine ordered so that we can give our patients the flu vaccine as soon as possible in the season – after all, the vaccine takes about 2 weeks to take full effect! I also help make sure the vaccine is stored properly, train staff on administering vaccines, provide educational materials about flu for our staff and patients, and help organize flu clinics.
What is the most difficult part of flu prevention?
Combating the overwhelming amount of misinformation about the flu vaccine that is out there!
Why do you think people underestimate the seriousness of flu illness?
Many people underestimate the seriousness of flu because they have not seen firsthand the devastating affects flu can have on patients. Each year hundreds of thousands of patients are hospitalized — and thousands to tens of thousands die – because of the flu, but because people do not always see this firsthand it is hard to remember the seriousness of the disease. Some people think influenza symptoms are like the common cold, but it is much more severe than that. I recently attended a talk where a father bravely told the story of his daughter Emily, a healthy 3 year old girl who died from the flu in 2004. Emily had not been vaccinated against the flu.
Why is it important to get the flu shot every year?
Since the flu virus is always changing it is important to get vaccinated every year. Getting the vaccine means you are not just protecting yourself from flu, but also others who may not be able to get the vaccine, including children less than 6 months of age and people with weakened immune systems. This is called herd immunity and is very important in lessening the chance of the virus spreading. If you get the vaccine and still get the flu, the severity and length of your illness, plus risk of serious complications, can be reduced.
What would you say to those who are hesitant about getting the flu shot?
While the flu shot varies in effectiveness each year, the flu vaccine is safe and our best way of preventing you and your loved ones from getting sick.
Thanks, Chelsea, for helping keep the Austin community healthy!