Opinion | Protect yourself and your community by getting the flu shot

Getting a flu shot this year will help protect both you and others.

Abby Gaugler, Opinions Contributor

What starts in the fall and ends in the spring? If you said flu season, you are correct.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people above six-months-old get immunized against influenza.

It can be a real pain to get the annual flu shot, but they are important. The reason flu vaccines are reviewed and recommended every year is due to something called “antigenic drift”.

According to the CDC, antigenic drift happens when small mutations occur to the genes of the influenza virus, changing the surface proteins (antigens) on the virus.

The new antigens make the virus an unrecognizable pathogen to your body. Therefore, you can get the flu more than one time.

This is also why some people choose not to get a flu shot every year because influenza vaccines are not always effective.

Usually the efficacy of a flu shot only reaches 60 percent, but can reach as low as 10 percent during a bad year. Scientists are not to blame for this — they essentially have to guess how the influenza virus will mutate, and/or what strain will be most present every year.

While they are not correct all of the time, the CDC reports when flu shots align with the virus circulating, they have an efficacy rate of 40 percent to 60 percent.

Vaccines are not an end all to harmful pathogens in your body. They are simply a resource to help your body recognize and fight off whatever infected you. Vaccinating yourself against the flu can significantly lower the need for intensive care if hospitalized, and it can reduce the likelihood of death resulting from the illness.

Many people fear that receiving a flu shot will cause them to get sick, which is not the case. Yes, injected influenza vaccines are composed of the influenza virus. However, the virus is not live. Viruses that are dead are not able to infect things.

Receiving a flu shot year will not allow the government to track your location or give you autism, among many other wildly preposterous claims and conspiracies. Vaccinations were created to protect people, not harm them. Vaccines have eradicated some illnesses and diminished others to an extremely low infection rate.

For the 2021 flu season, the CDC estimates that anywhere from 5,000 to 14,000 people died from the virus.

But more people were wearing masks during the 2021 flu season. Most University of Iowa students are choosing to go maskless this year, which means transmission rates of the flu could be higher than in recent years.

At the UI, there are quite a few routes to getting a flu shot. You can pop in for a quick visit at Iowa Memorial Union Nurse Care, no appointment is necessary. You can also make an appointment at the Student Health Center at Westlawn.

CVS pharmacy on South Clinton Street is also an off-campus option.

The flu shot is not the most guaranteed effective vaccine on the market, but some efficacy is better than no efficacy when it comes to protecting the vulnerable in our communities.

Be a team player. Protect yourself and your community, and get a flu shot.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.