by Dahee Seo '17
It's not too late ! There will be additional clinic on Thursday, November 19th at the Chancellor's Dining Room at the Ratti from 10am - 3pm. The vaccine is also available at Health Services anytime - you can either walk in or schedule an appointment.
It is that time of the year again! I am not talking about midterms or Halloween, but something as important as these two. Brown Health Services will be holding free Flu Shot Clinics from 10am - 4pm, downstairs of Blue Room Wednesdays - Fridays, starting from October 14th. This information may not excite those of you who never get the free flu shots. Honestly, why would you want to go get your arm poked by a needle when you have never gotten flu? Because getting a flu shot not only protects you but also protects those around you against the flu. It may indeed save someone’s life. If you are planning to go home for Thanksgiving and give a hug to your grandparents or baby nieces, nephews and cousins, please read short questions and answers about flu shot below.
What exactly is the flu?
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious disease caused by a virus. It attacks the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) and causes cold-like symptoms such as cough, sore throat and runny or stuffy nose. However, the flu is often accompanied by high fever and extreme exhaustion. Most healthy individuals recover within one or two weeks. However, in rare cases, it may may lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death, especially for certain high risk groups such as children, elderly and the immunocompromised.
How does flu vaccine work?
Flu shots basically contain ‘killed’ flu viruses. Since the viruses are dead, it does not cause full-blown influenza, but it can make your body still produce antibodies, which are disease fighting molecules that circulate in your blood. Antibodies work in very specific manner : one type of antibody can only fight against one type of disease. Therefore, if you contact a type of virus or bacteria for the first time, your body need time to custom make antibodies that specifically provide protection against the viruses that are in the vaccine. Therefore, the protection against virus usually start from two weeks after vaccination. Flu season typically start from November and lasts until March and during this time, flu viruses are circulating at higher levels in the U.S. population. So it is sensible to get flu shot at least two weeks before the flu season start for effective protection.
Flu shots make my arm sore and I feel unwell after getting flu shot. Why should I get a flu shot that precisely does what it is supposed to prevent from happening?
The flu shot may make some people feel a little dizzy or weak and give some people sore arm because even if the viruses in the flu shot is killed, your body still need to spend a lot of energy trying to process them and produce antibodies. These mild side effects can be improved by drinking plenty of water and having some rest. The side effects do not last more than a day. Still better than two weeks of flu!
I am so healthy that I have never gotten a flu shot in my life and managed to not get flu. So why would I want to get the flu shot this time?
Congratulation, first of all. You probably have a strong immune system that has protected you in the past. However, you may not be so lucky this time because flu viruses are constantly changing. That is why the flu vaccine is not like other vaccines that you only get once in 5 or ten years. The flu shot is updated each year based on the research on what type of flu virus is most likely to spread in the upcoming flu season. Some people tend to be more susceptible to a particular type of flu virus than the others. You may have always belonged to the ‘less susceptible’ group of people for the past flu seasons but it does not mean you will be this year as well.
Should I still get flu shot when I am sick? Who should not get flu shot?
People who are allergic to eggs must consult with healthcare providers before getting the flu shot because most flu vaccines ( but not all) are produced using eggs. People who are currently taking medication or who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past must also consult healthcare provider. If you are sick or have mild infections / fever, you are also recommended to delay vaccination until your symptoms disappear.
What do you mean by me getting flu shot can help people around me?
Even if you totally don’t care whether you catch the flu or even enjoy (!) catching the flu, there is another reason you should get flu shot.
Would you believe me if I told you that you getting flu shot may actually save lives? There is a phenomenon in study of immunology called ‘herd immunity’. It means if large enough proportion of people in a community get vaccinated against a certain disease, the small proportion of unvaccinated people in the community is also protected against the disease because there is simply not enough people in the community who can infect the unvaccinated individuals. Therefore, if you get your flu shot, you are actually helping other people, especially those who cannot get the flu shot themselves due the the conditions listed above. So please remember to get your flu shots!