Anchorage doctor says here comes the flu, so here comes your flu shot
Flu shot or not? For some it's a no-brainer, but other parents aren't in favor of it for a variety of reasons from medical to religious.
For one Anchorage pediatrician, there's little debate. And it goes further than just the one receiving the shot.
"The answer is flu shot for everyone above 6 months old," said Dr. Monique Child. "What we're doing is we're protecting the community as a whole but also by getting that protection you're helping to protect the infants that are too young to protect because we don't get the flu shot until you're over 6 months old. But also the elderly that don't have a strong immune system. They need a higher dose flu shot and they are also at a higher risk. So by protecting the entire population, you're protecting your most vulnerable people."
However, Child understands why some people are hesitant.
"Vaccines are doing something to a healthy organism and in a lot of health care we are doing something to an unhealthy organism," she said. "So we think, 'I'm sick. I should do something about it.' When we're talking about vaccines, we're saying 'You're not sick but we're going to do something anyway.'"
Then there's trypanophobia, better known as a fear of needles. Child has seen people with full-body tattoo art but who are still afraid of the shot.
Adult or older sibling's behavior can also have an influence. She says when dealing with children and shots, it's important to communicate with the child.
"The reason we're doing this is to prevent disease," she noted.
And for those who don't want the shot, there's another option: the nasal flu mist. Half the dose gets sprayed into one nostril and the other half in the other nostril, the doctor explained.
She said it's important to give kids choices, whether it's between the shot and the nasal mist or just about which arm they get their shot.
"Empowering kids as best you can but still getting that protection in one way or the other," Child said.
It's also important to remember that getting a flu shot doesn't guarantee flu-free winter, but it can help in a shorter and more mild strain.
"So some of the worst outcomes of the flu are mitigated or prevented by getting that flu shot, even if you get sick this season," she said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states influenza is unpredictable — the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one season to another.
However, Child said Alaskans can prepare by making sure they are protected.
"One of the best things you can do is obviously hand washing and getting that vaccine so that you can increase that level of protection throughout the community."
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