Heidi Parker guest col: It’s not too late to vaccinate

Governor Sandoval has proclaimed December 6-12 as Nevada Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) and I’m reminding you to add “get a flu vaccine” to your to-do checklist. As we head full speed into the holiday season, it’s important to remember that as you are out shopping, celebrating or enjoying family time, it is almost impossible not to come in contact with germs and viruses that can make us sick. Shopping carts, counters, doorknobs, party food, utensils, and handshakes may unknowingly expose us to unwanted viruses such as influenza.

However, getting sick from the flu can be easily prevented by getting vaccinated. As part of NIVW, we are encouraging those who have not yet been vaccinated this season to get vaccinated now. When you see signs that advertise: “Get Your Flu Vaccine Here,” you might think, “Isn’t it too late?” As long as there is flu activity in our communities, it’s not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones.

For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed. However, you may not realize that each flu season, flu also causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths.

Studies show that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu - related hospitalizations. This is why the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older, and there are various types of vaccines available. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about which is best for you and your family.

Some people are at high risk for serious flu related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This includes young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes or heart disease. For those at high risk for complications, getting the flu vaccine is especially important. It’s also important if you care for anyone at high risk, including babies younger than 6 months because they are too young to get vaccinated.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers. They also are offered by many employers, and are even available in some schools. Most health insurance plans cover the cost if administered in-network. If you do not currently have health insurance, visit nevadahealthlink.com to learn more about affordable health coverage options.

So next time you stop by the store for a gallon of milk and see a sign that says, “Get Your Flu Vaccine Here,” take a few extra minutes to protect yourself and those you love; and encourage your family, friends and co-workers to do the same. For more information about influenza or the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or other health care professional or visit inFLUenceNevada.org.

Heidi Parker is the executive director of Immunize Nevada.


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