Two Compelling Reasons (Among Many) to Get a Flu Shot This Year

Be a little selfish and treat yourself to a vaccination

Getting a flu shot reduces the likelihood of getting the flu

If your office is like ours, someone is out with the flu. And yet, we all got vaccinated! We diligently trooped downstairs, rolled up our sleeves, and received our flu shots in October. As a lab full of behavioral scientists, we know there are few things more demoralizing than doing all the right things and not getting the outcome promised (shout-out to anyone who’s ever #nailedit on a Pinterest craft).

Bodies are notorious for not giving you immediate positive reinforcement for healthy behaviors. If this year’s intense flu season has you feeling skeptical about getting the flu shot in the future, let’s talk.

Below, we discuss the benefits of flu vaccination for those around you as well as the direct benefit to you—sometimes it’s okay to be selfish!

Vaccinations to protect the vulnerable

We all want to stay flu-free, but what we sometimes forget is that avoiding the flu is not just great for ourselves – it can be the difference between life and death for others. So, even if you don’t care about your own health, remember that when you catch the flu you can spread it – and not everyone’s immune system is as strong as yours. People with compromised immune systems die from the flu all the time. This season, one in every 10 American deaths is due to the complications from the flu or pneumonia).

Do it for the grandparents, do it for the babies!

Shorter, milder symptoms

This year’s flu strain, H3N2, is a particularly tough virus to pin down, which can make the vaccine seemingly less effective. Because the resulting immunity might not be 100%, a person who got the flu shot could still get the flu, or they might get a different, less common strain that wasn’t included in the vaccine.

However, even if you ultimately contract the flu, you will still have a better experience than someone who catches the flu without having been vaccinated. Even though you can’t see it, the immune response a vaccine triggers is your body’s version of a fire drill, getting prepared for a real emergency. Lucky for you, those drills pay off.

Getting a flu shot reduces the likelihood of getting the flu, but if you do contract the flu, having been vaccinated also reduces the likelihood that you’ll be hospitalized for complications from the flu. And, even if you end up hospitalized from flu complications, patients who had received the flu shot were able to leave the hospital earlier and were much less likely to die of those complications.

Do it for yourself!

So what do I do next?

Get vaccinated! Flu season is still ongoing, and the flu shot improves your health and the health of people you care about. We’ve tackled two important motivations here: a self-focused, make your own life better rationale, as well as a more altruistic, helping others explanation.

Whether you’re looking out for others or you’re looking out for yourself, a flu shot makes sense.

 

Lindsay Juarez is a senior behavioral researcher at the Center for Advanced Hindsight, an applied behavioral science lab that helps people be happier, healthier, and wealthier, at home and abroad.

Aline Holzwarth is a senior behavioral researcher and Principal of the Center for Advanced Hindsight.