11 Benefits of the Flu Vaccine

Flu season is nearly upon us in the Philippines. Have you got your flu shot yet? If you're Filipino, chances are you haven’t. Nearly half a million Filipinos catch the flu every year, yet people still avoid getting their jab.

But in a global pandemic, it’s more important than ever to get your seasonal flu shot. If you get COVID and influenza together, you are at greater risk for serious illness and death.

Even without co-infection with coronavirus, the flu remains a very dangerous illness. Let's investigate the many benefits of the flu vaccine, and why you should get your seasonal flu shot now.

#1. Added protection against COVID-19

Studies have found that people who contract the flu and COVID at the same time are twice as likely to die as someone who only has COVID-19. Health experts agree that it’s safe to get both the COVID and flu vaccines together. Getting both vaccines lessens the risk of hospitalization, mechanical ventilation, and death from COVID-19.  

#2. Prevents the flu

The flu vaccine prevents millions of flu cases and doctor visits every year. According to the CDC, in the 2019-2020 flu season it prevented 7.5 million influenza illnesses and 3-7 million visits to the doctor. There was also a 43% reduction in sick days taken from work and school due to flu-like symptoms.

#3. Fewer hospitalizations

In the last flu season, vaccination prevented an estimated 105,000 hospitalizations. This reduces the burden on the healthcare system while also preventing a very expensive trip to the hospital. In addition, a study conducted during the 2011-2012 flu season found that there was a 77% reduction in hospital admissions amongst adults over 50.

#4. Less risk of severe illness and death

If an immunized person does become sick with the flu virus, it’s less severe. Severe flu illness can lead to serious complications, such as dehydration, pneumonia, and the worsening of chronic disease. It can even lead to death. An estimated 80,000 people lost their lives to influenza in the 2017-2018 flu season. Most of these deaths were preventable through an annual flu shot.

#5. Lowers the risk of heart attack

The influenza virus is associated with an increase in heart attacks and stroke. A 2018 study found that the risk of having a heart attack was 6 times higher within a week of a confirmed flu infection. Getting your flu vaccine may lower the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease.  

#6. Added protection against pneumonia

The American Lung Association states that pneumonia caused by the flu is much more severe and deadly. Post-influenza pneumonia is especially common among the older adults. Real-world data suggests that the influenza vaccine reduces pneumonia and influenza-related hospitalizations by up to 53 percent. Getting both the flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine together offers the greatest protection.

#7. Protects people with chronic diseases

The flu vaccine is beneficial for people with chronic health conditions that place them at greater risk for severe flu illness. People with asthma, obesity, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, brain disease, HIV/AIDs, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cancer are at greater risk of influenza compared to healthy individuals.

The flu can also worsen symptoms of chronic disease. For example, the flu can trigger more asthma attacks and worsen the symptoms of COPD patients. For diabetics, the flu can cause severe complications and disrupt healthy blood sugar levels. Getting vaccinated against the flu reduced the rates of hospitalization in diabetics by 79%.  

#8. Life-saving prevention against flu in children

About 80% of children who die from influenza are not immunized. Vaccinated children are highly protected, as vaccination reduces the risk of admission to the pediatric ICU by 74%. In the Philippines, children make up 30-40% of all flu cases. Parents are strongly advised to get their children immunized against the flu.

#9. Protects during and after pregnancy

The flu vaccine reduces the risk of acute illness in pregnant women by 50 percent. It also helps protect the baby after birth. This is important because the baby is too young to be vaccinated until six months of age. In addition, women who are vaccinated are less likely to give birth to premature or low birth-weight babies.

#10. Protects the elderly

In the Philippines, only 10% of people aged 60 have been vaccinated against influenza. Meanwhile, 50-70% of flu-related hospitalizations are of people over 65. The vaccine can play a key role in bringing down these numbers as the elderly have weakened immune systems and need extra protection. The flu vaccine reduces the illness amongst the elderly by 60% amongst individuals aged 65 and older.

#11. Protects your household and community

Many Filipino households include young children and the grandparents who care for them–two very vulnerable populations. Research indicates that household transmission accounts for up to 32% of flu cases in the Philippines. Getting the flu vaccine helps protect you and your entire family.

Flu vaccine side effects

No medication or vaccine is 100% safe and effective. However, the flu vaccine has been around for over 80 years.  It is considered extremely safe to use and it's our best tool for flu prevention.

Allergic reactions and side effects

Only 1.35 people in every million flu vaccine doses experience serious side effects. You are at greater risk of getting hit by lightning than experiencing adverse effects from the flu shot. Note that some flu vaccines contain egg products. If you have an egg allergy, be sure to alert your doctor.

Still getting the flu

After getting the shot, it can take around two weeks for your body to develop immunity against the flu. In this time frame, you can still get the flu. Also, some years the seasonal flu vaccine is more effective than others. It depends on how well the researchers predict which flu strains will be in circulation. But, even if you do get sick, flu symptoms are usually less severe. You will likely experience only a mild case.

How to get your flu vaccination in the Philippines

Flu season in the Philippines runs from June to November. The best time to get your anti-flu vaccine is from February to June, before the flu season peaks. But if you miss that time, you can still get vaccinated. The flu shot is widely available from Philippine hospitals, clinics, and home vaccination providers. But take care to get your jab from a reputable provider, who guarantees authentic, temperature-controlled vaccines.