Mid-September already? The kids are in school, people are screaming at the refs through their tv screens, and in about five minutes Christmas music will start up in the grocery store. Certain things follow the calendar with uncanny predictability. Like the flu and myths about the flu vaccine.
So why not blog about it?
You’ve heard the myths from your patients:
I don’t get the flu shot because it gives you the flu. Once after a shot I actually got the flu!
The flu shot doesn’t work anyway.
The flu shot is filled with all kinds of horrible ingredients – like formaldehyde!
The flu isn’t such a serious disease – so what if I have the sniffles and a coughf or a couple of days?
This medical blog topic will be easy for you to write about, because you’ve probably addressed these myths over and over with your patients. But to save you a little time, here are resources you can use to address these misconceptions.
The flu shot can’t give you the flu.
The flu vaccine is made from inactivated virus. This means it isn’t able to replicate or cause disease. Even the nasal mist (which the CDC does not recommend this year) is made from an “attenuated” virus. It cannot replicate which is required to cause disease. In this NEJM randomized, double blind study spanning two flu seasons, there was no difference in symptoms associated with flu for those who received actual flu shots and those who received saline injections.
The flu shot does work!
The flu vaccine is 50 to 60 percent effective in those who have been immunized. This may not sound like a lot, but that means it prevented over 7 million illnesses last year. In addition, recent research shows that those who are immunized but still get the flu have milder disease. As miserable as the flu can be, that’s a great benefit!
The flu shot is not filled with dangerous ingredients.
Depending on how in depth you want to go on a blog, you can really dig in here. This is one of those cases that requires patience and persistence. Because those scary sounding ingredients are really there. But sounding scary and being scary are two different things. The Skeptical Raptor does a nice – and satisfyingly snarky – job of breaking this down. His tone might not be something you want to replicate with patients who are just trying to figure out what’s right, but his facts are right on.
The flu is serious (and this is really why it needs to be your next medical blog topic).
Depending on the circulating strains of the virus, between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans die each flu season. Many more are hospitalized and miss work. This is a massive toll in both human and economic terms. If your patients aren’t afraid of getting sick (or making other people sick), maybe they will be more concerned about their wallets.
Whether you are a surgeon, specialist, or primary care physician, this topic applies to your patients. Sharing your well-considered advice on the importance of the flu vaccine is not only good for your patients, it’s good for public health in general. So there’s your next medical blog topic.