Save a life. Get a flu shot.

Grace Leake

You have until Friday to get a flu shot on campus. Do it.

Flu vaccines are quick, relatively painless and one of the most effective ways to save lives in the United States. They’re an easy and cheap way to better your chances of avoiding the flu virus — shots are available at multiple locations on campus, and even if you don’t have the insurance to cover the vaccine, it’s only $10. It’s an effective, fast way to take care of your health.

What’s more, flu shots not only safeguard your own health but protect every member of the UT, Austin and worldwide communities. Influenza, while unpleasant for anyone, is especially dangerous for the pregnant, young and elderly. By getting a vaccine, you are less likely to pass the flu on to those most vulnerable to infection. It’s not just your health you compromise when you don’t get a flu shot — you endanger everyone else around you.

Jeff Kwong, a family physician, epidemiologist and researcher at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences addressed this problem in Freakonomics. 

“I think one of the problems with influenza is the perception that it’s not a big deal,” Kwong said. “And it’s true that for most people it isn’t … but then the problem is that they could be giving it to their elderly parent, or their young child or their pregnant wife. And then their infant is born premature as a result of the influenza infection … it doesn’t make headlines, but that’s the reality people don’t appreciate.”

Flu shots save lives and protect our most vulnerable populations. Maybe you’re busy this week. Maybe you’re tired. Maybe getting the flu shot doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but your choice to not get vaccinated could lead to someone else’s death.

Some argue that they don’t want to get vaccinated because they’re afraid of getting the flu from the vaccine, or argue that they’ve gotten sick in the past after getting a flu shot. However, this doesn’t make scientific sense. The flu particles in the vaccine are dead — there’s no way you can be infected by a flu shot. So why do some people attribute getting sick to their flu shot? 

Kwong, responding to this phenomenon, said, “It’s impossible to get influenza infection from the injected vaccine. And so what a lot of people get is they get another virus … and they think that was influenza.” 

Kwong also notes that your body can have a mild immune response to the vaccine. If you’ve felt sick in the past after getting a flu shot, it was because you contracted something else or because your immune system had a slight, temporary reaction to the shot. The dangers of flu shots are illusory. Don’t let fears of getting sick prevent you from keeping yourself and others safe.

Flu shots are easy, cheap and protect both you and those around you. Today or tomorrow, go get a flu shot on campus. Protect the most vulnerable members of our population. You have the power to save a life — use it. 

Leake is a Plan II and business freshman from Austin. Follow her on Twitter @grace_leake.