Healthy Beginnings

Flu season in Northern Nevada — to vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

Medical professionals often agree that not getting a flu shot each year can put yourself and others at risk.

Typically, we encourage residents to get their flu vaccinations no later than December, as the flu season usually peaks in January to February, and can stretch all the way to April.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in an average year, the flu causes 30,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States, mostly among people 65 years or older.

It’s important for residents to understand how flu vaccinations work and the benefits of getting the shot. Here are a couple of points to consider when deciding whether to get vaccinated:


Protect yourself: How does the flu vaccine work?

Simply put, by getting a flu shot, you are preventing yourself from getting the flu. Flu symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

Extreme cases can lead to hospitalization and/or pneumonia, which is the cause of death in most extreme flu-related cases.

When manufacturing the vaccine, the virus is broken apart, extracting particles the immune system will recognize and then adding to the vaccine. Once injected, the immune system will recognize the danger and build up a response (through antibodies).

In the event we are exposed to the flu virus, our immune systems are ready to protect us with its fighter antibodies.


Protect others

In addition to protecting ourselves, young children and the elderly are highly susceptible to getting the flu, and at higher risk of hospitalization and/or pneumonia.

Because these two groups tend to have weaker immune systems, not getting your vaccination could put others around you at risk.


Cost concerns

No one can afford the flu — however, almost everyone can afford the flu shot.

Let’s face it, being sick can be expensive. Not only is it a miserable time dealing with flu symptoms, but you could be losing money or valuable time by calling in sick to school or work.

Conversely, the flu shot itself, in most cases, is no charge. Almost all insurance plans cover the full cost of flu vaccinations, making getting your vaccination a much wiser financial decision.


On the fence? Let’s examine the myths

“The flu shot will make me catch the flu/get sick.” This is simply not the case and we know this because:

  1. The flu vaccine is not a live vaccine. To cause even mild cases of illness, the particles in the vaccine would have to be active/live.
  2. Manufacturers must test each vaccine in populations it will serve and report any side effects/illness that occur. In standard testing, about two percent of subjects each year report illness, which is the same as those that receive a placebo saline shot, and it is the same outcome every year without interruption, so we know the vaccine is not causing illness.
  3. Usually when people go in for their flu shot, it’s motivated by being around sick people. It takes one to four days for the illness to build up and cause symptoms, but 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to activate. Chances are, the person already has the virus building up in them when they get the vaccine. It’s a myth connecting the dots to the vaccine.


“What about the risk of Autism?” There is no link between autism and vaccines. There may be a physical risk, soreness and/or reaction.

Sometimes infection at the injection site can lead to symptoms of illness in the body, and usually occurs with non-cleanliness (professional not properly sterilizing the site).

I always say consider the reward over the risk, as there is a much higher concern for influenza, and other vaccine preventable diseases than for potential side effects, as these diseases can devastate an entire community.

Do your research on the flu vaccination, Immunize Nevada and the CDC have comprehensive, accurate, science-based information on their websites.


Where to get a vaccination

Pharmacies have become one of the leading providers of vaccinations, especially in terms of the flu shot.

No appointment is necessary at your neighborhood pharmacy and the wait time is minimal. You can also visit your primary care provider or vaccination events in the community. Your employer may also host an on-site vaccine clinic.

Remember, getting a flu shot is the easy part. Battling the flu virus is the hard, potentially dangerous, and easily preventable part.

Daniel W. Heller, Pharm D., is Patient Care Coordinator for Smith’s Food & Drug Stores, with several locations throughout Northern Nevada. Visit to learn more.