Flu shots matter: Nurses must get the facts and spread the word

Jan Lynch, RN

Jan Lynch, RN

By Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN
Nurse Editor & Nurse Executive

Every year my family waits for my emails reminding them that it’s flu shot time, and then they enjoy pointing out who was the most cooperative and who was not. I’m grateful that in the end they’re all compliant, regardless of how many reminders I need to send.

Like everyone, they know that the flu is no joking matter. Each year, thousands get it and suffer symptoms ranging from annoying to serious, debilitating and even deadly. That’s why flu shots matter.

Clinical evidence shows potential benefits of the vaccine far outweigh potential harm for most, and that getting immunized is the best way to reduce incidence and lessen spread. Fortunately, we nurses are largely compliant, but not all our healthcare colleagues are. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 80% of RNs were vaccinated by last November, as compared with 63% of other healthcare groups.

As nurses, I believe we’re in a perfect position to encourage one another and our co-workers to get the flu shot. We also can urge those at risk for serious flu complications, particularly children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions, to get immunized.

There are some arguments we may hear as to why the flu shot isn’t necessary. To counter them, we need to educate ourselves with the best information and research. According to the CDC, there is greater risk for serious complications from the flu than from the shot, and even if the flu shot isn’t a perfect match for every virus, the three it does include provide broad protection. Because the vaccine contains inactivated virus, the flu cannot be transmitted via the shot.

There are valid reasons, however, for some not to get immunized, including those who have had severe allergic reactions to chicken eggs or to the flu vaccine itself, and those who have strong religious beliefs against vaccinations. In such cases, discussion with a healthcare provider should take place. And children under 6 months of age should not be vaccinated against the flu.

Nurses can encourage nursing students to get immunized and remind them to include teaching about the flu in their care planning. We can speak with those who work with vulnerable populations, volunteer to give flu shots at local clinics, and discuss the topic at community gatherings and professional meetings.

The flu season is here, so arm yourself with all the information out there, protect yourself and your family and educate your patients and co-workers to do the same. For more information, please read our recent article Face Flu Facts on Nurse.com.

Continuing education resources:

Aging immune systems makes older adults more vulnerable to attack

Adult immunizations: Growing needs, growing numbers

Childhood and adolescent immunization update

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