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Amy, my wife reminded me this weekend that the boys had not had their flu shots yet this year. It’s always a bit of a challenge coordinating schedules for two working parents and two kids, but this is something that has to be a priority.  

Aside from the hassle of being sick and missing work or school, getting your flu shot is a responsibility we all take part in to help protect the health of the folks we come into contact with. Amy’s pregnant patients and their families count on her to keep them well, and the last thing they need is to get sick from an encounter with their OB doctor. The same thing with my boys, not only are they protected from getting the flu, they are reducing the risk of potentially spreading the flu with children at school who may not be vaccinated or whose immune system may not be working well. For me, I am out every day meeting with many different community members and I would hate to think that I made someone ill. Like many families, we spend time with older parents and grandparents who are more vulnerable and for whom the consequences of the flu are more serious.

It is important that we take care of ourselves in getting a flu shot every year and know that in doing so we are also taking care of our families and our community. So in that spirit, I’ve included a few good reasons why you should get vaccinated this year:

Being sick is costly in terms of productivity for everyone. None of us have enough time and it makes sense to protect ourselves from a virus that could take valuable time away from other activities, both work and play. The vaccine is safe, generally has few side effects and doesn’t give you the flu.

Limit the risk of serious illness for yourself and others. Last year there were more than 3,400 confirmed cases of flu in Pima County and of those, 18 died. Even those who are not sick can still be carriers and expose vulnerable populations including children, pregnant women, seniors and people who have pre-existing respiratory conditions. Health care workers in particular should get a flu shot as they are caring for medically compromised members of the community.

Routine annual influenza vaccination is recommended for most persons over the age of six months and ideally, vaccinations should occur before the onset of flu activity in the community. That is why it’s important to get your flu shot early or as soon as the vaccine becomes available. 

Where to get flu shots:

Many major employers offer flu shots at the worksite for little or no cost. Check with your human resources department to get information on flu shot clinics at work. 

Many drugstores offer on-site flu shots for a minimal cost with little or not wait. 

Local health clinics offer flu vaccinations for free or at reduced costs.

The VA offers flu shots for those eligible.

Contact your health care provider. Most insurance plans cover it at little or no cost.

In addition to getting the flu shot, there are other ways to protect yourself and others from getting sick. Flu viruses spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing, by touching something with flu viruses on it and in some cases through the air. Make sure to wash your hands frequently, always cover your cough (use your elbow, not your hand) and stay home when you are sick. 

The flu is more serious than the common cold, so it’s important to do everything you can to prevent its spread. Don’t wait—protect yourself by getting a flu vaccination. You can be sure my boys, my wife and I will be doing the same.    

 

Dr. Francisco Garcia, Public Health Director for Pima County.

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