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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Many Health Care Workers Won’t Get Flu Shots

Poll Shows 28% of Health Care Workers Aren’t Planning to Get Vaccinated This Year

Why Some People Aren’t Getting Flu Shots continued...

Lipman says the survey shows other reasons may include “flu invincibility” -- the attitude that "I never get the flu, so why would I need a flu shot?” Flu invincibility was more common among men than women, the survey shows.

But this attitude does more harm than good. Each year, the flu puts about 200,000 people in the hospital, and people with underlying health conditions, young children, and the elderly are at risk. The health care workers who care for these individuals are also on the front lines when it comes to spreading the flu.

"All health care workers should really be vaccinated against the flu," Lipman says.

"There is a lot of concern that health care professionals could pass influenza on to patients, many of whom have compromised immune systems," says CDC spokesman Glen Nowak, PhD. "You are not avoiding risk by not getting the flu shot, you are just taking a different set of risks and those may be greater."

Best Time to Get Vaccinated

The ideal time to get the flu vaccine is in late September or October, Lipman says. "It takes about three weeks for the protective antibodies to build up, and they persist for months. If you get the flu shot in late September or October, your state of protection lasts six to eight months, right through flu season."

Neil Schachter, MD, a professor of pulmonary medicine and medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai Center in New York City, says that he is often met with resistance when counseling patients about getting the flu shot.

"Everybody has their own prejudices, and sometimes you can't get around what their mother told them about the flu shot or what they have seen on TV," he says. "The flu vaccine is the safest way to approach the flu epidemic and we certainly encourage those people at high risk for themselves or to transmit the flu to others to get the vaccine."

As far as what will happen this year with the flu or the flu vaccine, he thinks it may be too early to tell. "It is a little early to cry fire, but if you want to hedge your bets and have a safe and pleasant winter, I would bet on the flu shot," he tells WebMD.

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