I received my flu shot the other day. I love getting vaccines. Vaccines prevent disease and help keep me healthy. To me, getting that poke in the arm gives me a feel-good sense of interconnectedness with others. I know it seems at first a little odd to make this comparison, but for me it’s true. Getting a vaccine helps keep me well, and makes me happy knowing that by not getting the flu I am keeping others healthy. Not only do I feel cared for as an individual, but in getting that shot, I enjoy a sense of caring for others.
And when it comes to caring about our community, kudos to our own Kittitas Valley Healthcare organization for working hard to prevent patients from getting the flu. KVH has adopted a very strong influenza vaccination policy, in that if a KVH employee chooses not to get the influenza vaccine, they are required to wear a mask throughout the flu season (from November 1st through March 31st!).
Getting the influenza vaccine as a healthcare worker is very important; research has shown that healthcare workers who get the flu risk infecting their patients, which can result in serious illness and death. For example, research on this topic has compared nursing homes with high rates of influenza vaccination among staff to nursing homes where staff had lower rates of vaccination. The nursing homes that had low staff influenza vaccination rates had significantly higher influenza related deaths among the residents. In other words, getting the influenza vaccine not only keeps healthcare workers healthy, but protects the people they care for.
Similarly, when a individual in our community gets the influenza vaccine, they not only improve the chances of not getting the flu themselves, but also of not giving it to others they come into contact with. Regardless of our profession or daily activities, we inevitably interact with other community members, some of whom may have medical conditions that make them more vulnerable to getting sick with influenza. For example, it’s almost impossible to know if the person we stand in line with at the grocery store has cancer and is taking medicine that suppresses their immune system. Why take the chance of getting someone else sick?
My advice is to take action to keep yourself, friends, family, and fellow community members healthy. Get the influenza vaccine. In addition to being healthier, by receiving the vaccine you promote the health of others. Take a moment to reflect upon what that vaccine is doing not only for yourself, but for every person in your life.