Flu in all its variations is an annual threat in the United States and to the people we serve at GVMH. We know this from history, science and personal experience. And still, many people make the risky decision not to get the vaccine — not to protect themselves and not to help protect others, including those they love.
The official position of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.”
The CDC has the statistics to demonstrate the breadth of the problem. From 1976 through 2007, the death toll from flu ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths each year. Many thousands more, particularly the elderly and the very young, are hospitalized with serious complications.
Over the decades since vaccines became widely available, many advances have improved their delivery and success rate while reducing side effects. Today, medical professionals are in wide agreement about the advisability of getting the annual vaccine — and sooner rather than later.
The CDC notes it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that offer protection. The agency advises early October is the perfect time for the vaccination, because that will provide protection later in the month when outbreaks begin to occur and throughout the flu season, which can peak in January or later.
This advice has been realized by hospitals across the State of Missouri and by the Missouri Hospital Association. MHA has encouraged all member hospitals to develop a flu vaccination program designed to vaccinate 100% of hospital and health care workers. Like the majority of hospitals in Missouri, GVMH has adopted a mandatory flu vaccination policy that allows for both medical and religious exemption. More than 80% of GVMH staff voluntarily received the flu vaccination last year and the new policy requires the flu vaccination as a condition of employment.
I understand some staff’s apprehension about the shot, I myself have had a reaction to the vaccine in the past which required IV antihistamines and for a number of years following the reaction I had to take the vaccine in half doses one month apart until last year when I was once again able to take the full dose without any side effects.
We encourage all of our patients to get the vaccine because we know it’s the right thing for them, their families, our patients and our community. It would be hypocritical for us not to encourage the same of our staff.