This Week's Hotel Voice

Flu Shots Available at Health Centers; Top Fears About Flu Shots Discredited

Hotel Voice - October 27, 2016 Share/Save/Bookmark

Each year there are fears, rumors, urban legends and simple misinformation that keep more than half the population in the U.S. from protecting themselves from the flu. But the truth is this: There is no better way to avoid getting the flu than to get the annual vaccine, which is often referred to as a “flu shot.”

We all know that most people avoid flu shots because of various misconceptions and unnecessary fears. Simply put, many people have questions about the flu vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. We’ll try to answer them here, at a time when free flu shots are available at the Union’s Health Centers without an appointment.

One common misconception is that the flu shot and other vaccines cause autism. But health experts agree there is no connection between flu shots (or any other vaccines) and autism, and there never has been any such connection.

Another common misconception is that getting a flu shot can give you the flu itself. The fact is that the flu vaccine contains dead flu viruses that cannot give you the flu. Instead of giving you the flu, a flu shot introduces your body to the killed virus so that it can develop a proper immune response in case you encounter the live virus later on during the flu season. In many cases that immune response will stop you from getting the flu and in the rest of the cases it will lessen its severity.

Also, many people believe incorrectly that the flu shot is very painful. While many of us fear needles and the pain they sometimes produce, the one or two seconds of discomfort — if any — that you will feel from a flu shot ranks pretty low on the list of painful things you'll experience in life. We can also tell you that the one or two-second twinge you feel when getting a flu shot is a lot better than the one or two weeks of pain you will feel if you end up getting the flu.

Many also mistakenly believe that the flu shot is not effective. But the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the shots can be up to 90 percent effective at preventing the flu. And for those who do get sick, the vaccine provides at least partial protection, reducing the rates of hospitalization for flu complications, for example. Not only that, but when you get the flu shot you are helping to protect people you come in contact with — such as small children or the elderly — who have weaker immune systems.

As we have reported before in Hotel Voice, however, there are also some people who should not get a flu shot. These people include:

Everyone should also remember that even if you received a flu shot last year you may not be immune to the flu this year. That's because strains of the illness change from year to year and flu shots have been known to lose their power over a period of time. It is also important to remember that flu shots usually take about two weeks to take effect. For this reason it is strongly advised that members be immunized now, instead of waiting until a time when the flu season is in full force.

And here’s one final thing everyone should know: If you haven't received your flu shot this year, they are available now, without an appointment, at any of the Union's four Health Centers: the Midtown Health Center at 773-775 Ninth Avenue (Corner of West 52nd Street, Phone: 212-586-1550); the Harlem Health Center, located at 133 Morningside Ave. (Phone: 212-923-2525); the Queens Health Center, located at 37-11 Queens Blvd. (Phone: 718-361-5100); and the Brooklyn Health Center, 68-80 Schermerhorn Street (Phone: 718-858-7200).

Members who live out-of-area can get free flu shots at any of the four Health Centers, also without an appointment necessary.