The return of fall means the return of many things, like colorful leaves, cooler temperatures and, everyone’s favorite, football games. However, it also means the return of flu season. This flu season, we urge every person to get their flu vaccination.
Last year's flu season was dubbed as a “high-severity season,” due to high levels of clinic and emergency department cases for influenza-like illness. In Minnesota, it was also a notably worse season. Nearly 4,700 people were hospitalized half-way through the season — the highest number in a decade.
The University of Minnesota typically sees a student vaccination rate of around 60 percent, according to Dave Golden, director of public health at Boynton Health. This leaves a startling number of students in the University community who do not receive their vaccination. Whether or not this is from laziness, students need to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their peers.
The growing anti-vaxxer movement has encouraged record numbers of people to not get vaccinated, often citing the belief that vaccinations are a “human rights violation,” according to Global Citizen. Despite no scientific evidence, many anti-vaxxers believe there is a clear connection between vaccinations and brain disorders, including autism.
The failure to vaccinate is harming our society. Researchers have linked the falling immunization rates to resurgences of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as whooping cough and influenza. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control warns that disease outbreaks will be more frequent and harder to control.
The CDC estimates that nearly 47 percent of the population vaccinated for the 2016-2017 flu season, which prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses and 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits. Moreover, CDC experts calculated that a 5 percentage point increase in vaccination rates could have prevented an additional 483,000 illnesses and 232,000 influenza-associated medical visits.
As the anti-vaxxer movement grows, the public health risks are even more pressing. The reduction in vaccination is not only a problem for those not vaccinated, but it lowers herd immunity — a form of immunity that occurs when a large majority of people are immunized in any population.
Herd immunity is essential to protect infants, young children and the elderly from influenza. It’s especially important because some people can’t get vaccinated for certain diseases, such as people with weakened or failing immune systems.
The University and Boynton Health places a strong focus on herd immunity, passing out “Do It for the Herd” suckers and stickers to those who receive flu vaccines at Boynton Health. Between prevention, management and outreach, there are many ways to tackle the upcoming flu season.
Boynton Health is taking commending initiative by setting up mass flu clinics. And while it may seem like flu season is still months away, cases have already been reported in Minnesota.
Ultimately, we urge everyone to get a flu vaccination, as it is essential in protecting ourselves and the community. Faculty and students can receive a flu vaccine — free of cost — at Boynton Health or any of their clinics.