That dreaded season is upon us again: Flu Season.
Every year, a barrage of commercials and public service messages urge people across America to roll up their sleeve and take a shot for the team in the name of preventing the spread of the flu. This year will be no different, but we want to clarify some unfounded myths and rumors pertaining to the flu shot and how it relates people who use kidney dialysis to manage their CKD or ESRD.
It is widely rumored that individuals undergoing dialysis treatment should not receive the flu vaccination. The prevailing reason for this rumor is the fear that the flu vaccination will cause the patient to become sick with the flu, and, given that dialysis patients typically have weakened immune systems, this sickness will spiral into something potentially severe or life threatening.
As medical professionals, we are definitively stating that this notion is FALSE. In fact, it is backwards thinking. At Reliant Renal Care, our aim is to inform and educate those who may be on the fence about receiving the flu shot that they will be safer and healthier by receiving the flu vaccination. Here’s why.
First off, yes, it is true that vaccines work by using a derivative of the virus – in this case the flu virus – to help the body produce antibodies that fight it. However, it is false to think that the vaccination will harm you. The flu virus is FDA approved, which may still be a skeptical endorsement for some, which is fine. But doctors in laboratories also test it across the entire United States before it is released. These doctors thoroughly evaluate the vaccine’s formula before approving it to be safe for public use.
Further, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) strongly endorses patients undergoing dialysis to partake in annual flu shots. Based on the CDC’s research and data trends, dialysis patients who contract the flu without having received a flu shot are at a much higher risk for that flu to develop into a more severe illness, like pneumonia, which can be life threatening. The flu shot is a simple wall of defense to help the human body minimize the effects of the flu and prevent it from ballooning into something life threatening. That is why the CDC also recommends that dialysis patients receive the Pneumovax vaccination (pneumonia vaccination), which is given every five years, and the Hepatitis B vaccinations (every 10 years). When you are protected by the annual flu shot and have defenses against Pneumonia and Hepatitis B, you are as protected as possible.
Another dissenting school of thought about the flu shot that we hear often is this: “If everyone else is vaccinated, that means no one around me will get it, so why do I need to get it?” This is a valid question. The answer is simple: Because of the risk. For patients undergoing dialysis, the risks of a flu spiraling out of control are so much greater than an individual who does not need dialysis treatment. Since a dialysis patient’s immune system is weaker, it is easier for the virus to cause complications. Your immune system will not have the necessary firepower – built up antibodies that the flu shot helps to produce in a controlled way – to attack the virus. It is likely that a simple case of the flu will become pneumonia.
Because of these reasons, which are shared by the entire medical community, it is important that you protect yourself by getting the flu shot to minimize this annual threat.
In the event that you haven’t received your annual flu shot, or if you are over due to for your Pneumovax / Hepatitis B vaccinations, contact your general practitioner to schedule your shots today. Here at Reliant Renal Care, we wish you a long and healthy life and would hate to see it cut short due to an uneducated oversight. If you have any other questions or concerns about this issue, please contact us, and we’ll get right back to you with an answer. Thank you for reading!