Erie County officials received the influenza vaccine Wednesday in an effort to encourage residents to do the same.
County Department of Health nurses administered flu shots to County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein Wednesday at the county building in downtown Buffalo as part of National Influenza Vaccination Week.
While the peak of flu season is typically around late January and early February, Burstein reported the county has already had several confirmed cases of the flu. There were a total of 1,151 confirmed cases of the flu across New York state last week, according to the New York State Department of Health's influenza survelliance report.
“The best thing to do is to get immunized now if you haven’t already to make sure you’re fully protected against influenza by the time we start to see a lot of viruses circulating in the community,” she said.
Flu shots are typically completely covered by health insurance plans and are available at most pharmacies, as well as at most primary care physicians’ offices. Private manufacturers have dispersed 166 million doses of the vaccine in the U.S. as of last month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some are hesitant to get the shot due to the anti-vaccination movement. The CDC reports fewer than half of American adults got their flu shot last flu season.
Burstein said there are several myths about the shot, including that it can actually give you the flu.
“It’s actually biologically impossible to get influenza from the vaccine because it’s not a live virus,” she said. “Your body sees what looks like influenza so it’s able to build up active antibodies because they think it’s exposed, however it is not influenza.”
While some report getting the flu shortly after receiving the shot, Burstein said that’s simply a coincidence since getting the flu is common during flu season. Plus, she noted it takes two weeks after getting the shot for the body to build up immunity.
Poloncarz said that while some healthy adults think they can handle the flu and don’t need the shot, they’re still putting more vulnerable people at risk.
“If they pass that on to someone they love, they can kill them, and that’s happened in this region, especially among the senior population where they’re much more at risk if they get the flu,” he said. “So we are reminding everyone: You get the flu shot to not only protect yourself but your loved ones. And if you don’t do that you’re putting your loved ones at risk."
The elderly, young children, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions like asthma are most likely to suffer serious complications from the flu.
New York has already had one confirmed flu-related pediatric death so far this reason.