Prevention: The Importance of Annual Flu Vaccines and Community Immunity

Serese Marotta

This blog post is part of a weekly series focusing on different aspects of public health leading up to Public Health Thank You Day on Monday, November 21, 2016. Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #PHTYD and visit www.publichealththankyouday.org for more information. 

It’s that time of year again – flu season is here. Unlike the common cold, influenza is a serious and highly contagious disease that tends to develop quickly. Many people think “it’s just the flu”, but sadly, the flu can lead to hospitalization and death, even in healthy individuals.

As a parent who lost her healthy five-year-old son to the flu, I want everyone to understand how critically important it is for all children and their families to get their flu vaccinations each and every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older as the best preventative measure against the flu. I also want people to understand that getting your annual flu vaccination not only protects you and your family, but it also helps protect others in your community.

What is Community Immunity?

Community immunity, also known as herd immunity, is when a critical portion of the population is immunized against an infectious disease, such as the flu, so that it reduces the spread of the disease and limits the potential for an outbreak. History has shown us that flu outbreaks can have devastating effects, such as the Spanish flu in 1918, the Hong Kong flu in 1968, and the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. Through annual flu vaccination, transmission rates drop, vulnerable populations within the community are better protected, and the risk for further complications such as hospitalization and even death are decreased.

Know Your Flu Facts!

  • Each year, between 5 and 20% of the population develops the flu.
  • Children miss more than 38 million days of school each year due to the flu.
  • The flu causes $87 billion in total economic burden every year in the U.S.
  • Even people who are not showing flu symptoms can transmit the disease to others.  
  • If flu vaccination coverage in the U.S. increased by just 5%, it would prevent approximately 800,000 illnesses and nearly 10,000 hospitalizations.

Families Fighting Flu (FFF) is a national, non-profit organization comprised of families who children have suffered serious medical complications or died from influenza, as well as other advocates and healthcare professionals committed to flu prevention. We work to increase awareness about the seriousness of influenza in the hopes that no other family has to endure the devastating effects of this serious disease. Alongside Research!America, we’d like to thank public health professionals for helping to make a difference in the fight against influenza! 

Serese Marotta is the Chief Operating Officer of Families Fighting Flu.

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Luck shouldn't play a role in why I'm alive.
Laurie MacCaskill, a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor