ASNA Partners with The Wellness Coalition in Dispelling Flu Vaccine Myths in African American Communities

There are many vaccines out for people to take to prevent diseases, but some populations of people are still hesitant to receive them. With a little over 68% of hospitalizations due to flu related complications, African Americans are at the most risk. In fact, African Americans in every age group rank highest for more hospitalizations caused by the flu.

One reason the group is so greatly affected by the flu is the element fear accompanying vaccines and trust in vaccination programs. We all know about the infamous “Tuskegee Experiment” that was supposed to treat African American men with syphilis, but instead provided no treatment at all, even when penicillin became the cure.

The participants in the program were led to believe they were being treated for “bad blood.” The truth of that experiment was widely publicized, the negative effects of which still resonate in African American communities today.

Once trust is lost, it’s hard to regain. Healthcare professionals can relate to African Americans who are hesitant by:

  • Talking to patients and asking why they are hesitant about the flu shot in an open, nonjudgmental discussion.
  • Provide accurate information about the vaccine and flu, such as:
    • Complication risk factors if they get the flu
    • The likelihood of the vaccine causing harm
    • Comparing the vaccine to other preventative measures they already take, such as daily medication
    • Assure them you get the vaccine as well

The myth that the flu shot gives people the flu is another big reason why many don’t trust the vaccine. Some of the vaccine hesitation also comes from patients thinking that the shot will interfere with the medication they take regularly for chronic diseases. More in-depth discussion with patients to dispel myths such as these can help increase flu vaccine coverage and decrease flu-related hospitalizations.

Dispelling Flu Vaccination Myths

The Wellness Coalition, in Montgomery, Alabama, is working to dispel myths to ensure that individuals feel comfortable with getting the flu vaccine, thereby improving vaccination coverage.

“I am passionate about getting the facts out about flu vaccinations,” said Na’Sha Deramus, flu program coordinator for The Wellness Coalition. “Mistrust in the vaccines is understandable, but there are ways we can come together to dispel myths and ensure everyone understands the flu vaccine is safe and effective.”

Continue reading for answers to frequently asked questions about the flu and flu vaccine.

Na’Sha Deramus, flu program coordinator for The Wellness Coalition

Does the Flu Vaccine Give You the Flu?:

Many people believe that the vaccine gives you the flu, but it does not. The flu vaccine is made of many components, including dead flu viruses, meaning there is no active virus to make you sick in the vaccine. It is advised that everyone gets vaccinated every year, because the flu vaccine changes to fight off rising flu viruses. Also, a person’s ability to fight the flu through vaccination declines over time and that’s why it’s important to get vaccinated every year.

Who Needs the Flu Shot?:

  • Everyone from 6 months old and older.
  • Children 6 months should be given the doses at least 4 weeks apart and should start the vaccination process earlier
  • Every child under the age of 9, receiving the vaccine for the first time, should get a second dose
  • It is recommended that you get vaccinated starting at 6 months old.
  • Adults over 65 years of age should get the vaccination for older adults because it provides extra protection

Who Should Not Get the Flu Vaccine?

  • Children younger than 6 months
  • Some who have experienced Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • People who may have a severe allergic reaction to the vaccine, which contains gelatin, eggs, and antibiotics

Who Is At Risk For Complications If They Get the Flu But Not the Vaccine?

  • Everyone is at risk for complications, even those who do not have underlying health issues.
  • People who live with chronic health issues should consider getting vaccinated because the flu can cause complications leading to hospitalizations or death.
  • According to the CDC, hospitalizations due to flu have decreased by 40% in recent years thanks to vaccinations.

When Does the Vaccine Take Effect?

According to the CDC, it takes 2 weeks for the vaccine to get into your system to fight off flu infections. This is why it’s recommended to get vaccinated in October. However, it is never too late to get the vaccine during flu season.

If you get a flu virus after being vaccinated, you may have contracted it before you got vaccinated or within the 2 weeks it takes for the vaccine to work. You may also have been exposed to a flu virus not included in the yearly vaccine. There are many different flu viruses, but the vaccine protects you from the most common ones. If you do indeed get the flu after being vaccinated, the vaccine will lessen the severity of the illness.

What About the Nasal Spray?

There is also a nasal spray vaccine, but it’s only for those 2 years to 50 years of age, including pregnant women, asthmatic children 2-4 years old, and those with weakened immune systems. According to the CDC, the nasal spray is not recommended for those who have taken influenza antiviral drugs in the past 48 hours. It is important to consult your doctor about the best flu vaccine option for you.

What If I’m Afraid?

Getting vaccinated should not be intimidating. Vaccinations protect you and your family from potentially severe illness. If it’s the needle you’re afraid of, ask your provider for the nasal spray. Remember to mask up, lather up, and sleeve up to be protected from the flu and other illnesses.

Increased Risk of Flu Complications

According to the CDC, the following groups of people may experience greater complications from having the flu:

  • Adults 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People with heart disease
  • Someone who suffered a stroke
  • Those who are asthmatic
  • Those who are obese
  • People with neurological and/or neurodevelopmental conditions
  • Those with weak immune systems, such as people with cancer, HIV/ AIDS, or leukemia

Vaccinations are known to decrease the number of hospitalizations in those who have diseases such as chronic heart, lung, and diabetes. Someone who experiences complications risks ending up in the hospital where those who have COVID-19 are also located. It is possible for someone to have the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. Think about that. Imagine how your health can decline just that fast.

There is no vaccine for COVID-19, but there is for the flu. Protect yourself the best way you can. You should go to the emergency room if you have the flu and experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Persistent pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Persistent dizziness and confusion
  • Seizures
  • Severe weakness
  • Fever or cough that returns or worsens
  • Other medical conditions that worsen
  • Severely reduced urination

Protecting yourself from the flu could save you from the complications leading to hospitalizations. Ensuring your protection from the flu, as well as your family’s, could also ease some of the burden of the pandemic. Get vaccinated today.

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