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Take your medicine: Getting a flu shot is part of being good neighbor

By Longview News-Journal
Oct. 6, 2012 at 11 p.m.

Flu season is officially upon us and, while the highest incidence of the disease is usually seen during the winter months, now is the time to get vaccinated. Once you have the virus a vaccination won't do any good and there are no magic pills to make the agony end any sooner. 

Just because last year's flu season was relatively mild doesn't mean anyone should consider skipping the shot this year, health officials told us. Vaccination is particularly important for those in one of the high-risk groups: young children, pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 and older.

For people in those groups, coming down with the flu is more than just an inconvenience, it can be a life-threatening event. It does not have to be.

One of the reasons we have had no serious flu outbreaks during the past decade or so is because most of us are being vaccinated annually, thus the disease has a much more difficult path to spreading to epidemic proportions.

In that way, flu vaccinations are more than simply something you do for yourself; it's part of being a thoughtful and responsible member of the community. Those who do not get vaccinated can become ill and spread the flu to others. Ultimately, some of these people will have to be treated at taxpayer expense, which costs much more than taxpayers footing the bill for a $10 vaccination shot.

We understand some among us have misgivings about vaccinations. Those range from a fear of the needle to unfounded notions the shot itself will make us ill. For most of those who are afraid of the needle prick, nasal spray vaccines are widely available. And there is no truth to the notion the vaccine will give you the flu.

You might feel a bit puny for a few days after a flu shot and your arm might be sore for the same amount of time, but otherwise there is absolutely no harm from getting a vaccination. Don't let yourself be fooled by wild rumors.

The flu vaccine is not perfect, of course. It includes protection against the three most common and expected forms of the flu this season. It is always possible another form of the virus - there are countless mutations - will be most prevalent. That's not likely, but you should be aware that getting vaccinated is not a 100 percent safeguard.

Still, we believe it is vital all of us take the time to be vaccinated.

Flu shots are readily available in many locations across East Texas. We are seeing them offered everywhere from discount stores to pharmacies and even some offices, so the shot is not hard to find.

Most health insurance plans will cover the cost of the shot, and county health offices across East Texas will be offering them at free or at a reduced cost in the next several weeks. Here in Gregg County, the health department is offering a free shot clinic the morning of Oct. 20, for example. If you must pay, the shot could range from $10 to $40.

Of course your regular doctor can also give you a flu shot, and it should be free to anyone who is enrolled in Medicare.

Where you get the shot doesn't matter. That you get it is important not just to you, but to the rest of us as well. Let's all do our part to make this another uneventful flu season.



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