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The Importance of Receiving the Flu and Pneumonia Vaccinations

Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen the advent of colder weather and a little bit of snow. Now the holiday season is in full swing where people will start spending a lot of time together. Heather Rasmussen, CCMH Chief Officer for Ancillary Services, Quality, and Infection Control, says there are a number of precautions one can take to protect themselves from the flu and pneumonia.

“Let’s start with the flu shot. Receiving a flu shot will reduce your chances of getting sick with influenza. If you do get the flu, the vaccination will help to lessen the symptoms you’ll experience. Remember, you can get really sick from the flu. Babies, the elderly population and immunocompromised people can get really sick from the flu. So the best way to protect them is for you to get a flu shot.”

Rasmussen notes that COVID-19 over the past several years has caused many people to not want the flu vaccine. Nonetheless, influenza, for many years, has been one of the more deadly illnesses that people could contract, especially the very young and the very old.

“We’re in the holiday season. People are indoors. Windows aren’t open. There’s really no fresh breeze going through your house to help purify the air. You can have 20, 30 people in a house. Everybody’s hugging each other and all that good stuff. And that’s how the flu virus is spread.”

There are very simple precautions everyone can take to help keep people healthy this winter. Rasmussen explains these precautions only take a few seconds but can help save us from a time of illness.

“it may seem like an oversimplification but what we’re talking about are the same infection control prevention we’ve been talking about forever. Wash your hands, cover your cough, cover your sneeze, stay home when you’re sick. If you’re not feeling good and you’re running a fever, stay home and get the flu shot. The flu shot is the quadrivalent shot. And most of the time, the flu shot is covered by insurance.”

The concept of getting the flu from the flu shot is an old wives tale Rasmussen says is untrue.

“I’ve heard numerous times through my career in healthcare, ‘the flu shot gave me the flu’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The influenza vaccine is manufactured from an inactivated virus. It cannot give you the flu. What you’re probably having is a reaction to the flu shot, and that’s okay. Your arm might get sore. You might run a fever. You might mimic flu. That’s okay. Those are some of the side effects that could happen, but it’s not the flu.”

Rasmussen says there is a difference between the vaccination for influenza versus vaccination for pneumonia.

“I would recommend the pneumonia vaccination as much as I would the influenza vaccination. These are both good vaccinations to protect yourself and it protects others as well.  It’s all of these illnesses. COVID, flu, pneumonia, every one of them can be serious and can result in death.”

Relying on antibiotics to fight pneumonia is a flawed strategy, Rasmussen explained.

 “With COVID, we’ve seen a lot of viral pneumonia. Obviously, COVID’s a virus. And sometimes you have to have an antibiotic with pneumonia because you developed bacterial pneumonia. What we have to remember is, if it’s a virus, antibiotics aren’t going to help at all. Viruses do not respond to antibiotics. It’s kids and the elderly population, and people who are immunocompromised, and people who have lung diseases, like asthma and COPD, who are really at risk for pneumonia. And pneumonia, unfortunately, especially in the elderly, and people with any sort of compromised health, can be a very serious illness that could result in death.”

Rasmussen reiterated the need to engage in simple precautions to protect ourselves from communicable diseases.

“We just have to make sure that people protect themselves from this. And again, precautions, the really easy things you can do. Wash your hands, cover your cough, cover your sneeze, stay home if you’re sick. Don’t go to work and spread it to others.”

Rasmussen recommends those who are in need of a flu shot, or anyone under the age of two or over the age of 65, who would like to receive the pneumonia vaccination, contact their medical provider or local pharmacy. If someone does not have a regular medical provider, Rasmussen says you can contact the CCMH Medical Clinic for assistance.

“Call the CCMH Medical Clinic at 265-2700 and come in and we’ll get you immunized. We’ll get you fixed up, as they say.”

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