Having a lower risk of the flu is just the beginning of the perks.
Your doctor is encouraging you to get a flu shot, but is that really necessary? After all, you know that the vaccine won’t provide 100 percent protection against the flu. The short answer is that getting the flu shot every year is worth it. Beyond lowering your risk of infection, there are many other benefits of getting the flu shot.
Benefits of an Annual Flu Shot
1. The flu shot significantly reduces your risk of influenza
The flu shot isn’t a silver bullet against the flu, but it does lower your risk. Depending on many factors, the flu shot may cut your risk of getting the flu by 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also estimates that it helps prevent millions of cases every year.
2. The flu shot can help you avoid sick days
Some people think the flu isn’t “that bad” and it’s not worth the effort to seek out a vaccine. Let’s put it this way: The seasonal flu causes millions of missed work days every year. This may be especially devastating for people who do not have paid sick days. Outbreaks in a community can also lead to businesses being short-staffed or even having to temporarily close, which can affect the entire neighborhood.
It’s not just missed work and school days: Having the flu could mean missing hangouts with friends, birthday parties, and other important events. Children with the flu could have to sit out the “big game,” miss their performance of Footloose, or have to stay home during the winter dance.
3. The flu shot reduces the risk of serious illness from the flu
Okay, yes, it’s true that you can still get the flu after having a flu shot. Here’s the thing: People who do get the flu despite being vaccinated tend to have milder symptoms and are less likely to be hospitalized or have complications. That’s great for everyone, but especially for people who have a higher risk of complications.
4. The flu shot lowers the risk for people in at-risk groups
Certain groups of people are more at risk for flu complications. This includes people with diabetes and lung conditions (like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It also includes adults older than 65 or children younger than 2.
For people in these groups, the flu shot can help add a layer of protection. It may prevent them from getting the flu altogether, or at least lower their risk of severe symptoms and complications. For people not in these groups, having the flu shot lowers your risk of getting the flu and transmitting it to someone in an at-risk group (such as your great grandfather or baby nephew).
5. The flu shot can help protect pregnant women and their babies
Pregnant women are also an at-risk group for flu complications. This is due to changes in the heart, lungs, and immune system during pregnancy and immediately after childbirth. Getting the flu shot during pregnancy can reduce the risk of complications and help ensure a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
The flu shot has benefits for the baby, too. When a pregnant woman gets a flu shot, it provides some antibodies to the baby that lasts a while after childbirth. That’s helpful because the flu shot isn’t available for babies until they're six months old.
6. Getting the flu shot reduces the burden on hospitals
When outbreaks happen in a community, the hospital systems see a surge in patients. COVID-19 has demonstrated what happens when a hospital runs out of ICU beds: It becomes harder for people to get help for health emergencies. Patients may need to be transported to hospitals in other areas that have more availability. That means anyone having a heart attack, stroke, or severe illness may not be able to get the help they need as quickly as they could otherwise.
A community with high vaccination rates against the flu may see fewer rates of hospitalizations. This helps ensure that hospitals maintain the space, resources, and personnel to provide high-quality care for anyone who needs it (for the flu or anything else).
Getting More Information About Flu Vaccination
If you have questions about the flu shot, your doctor or pharmacist can provide more information. You may be able to get the vaccine for free, especially if you have insurance. With all the benefits of the flu shot, it’s currently the best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community.