By Hank Milius, President and CEO, Meridian Health Services—
Muncie, IN—Fall is a reminder that we are entering the flu season. This year will be far from traditional, and the pandemic gives us more reasons to be both educated and diligent in our responsibilities to our families and communities.
Vaccines play an important role in ensuring a healthy community and world. They have greatly reduced or eliminated an array of lethal diseases including:
In short, vaccines work.
According to Dr. Safraz Khan, Meridian Health Services’ Chief Medical Officer, “Everyone in the household must get vaccinated. No one is immune to the illness. While the younger and healthier population may not get as sick, they can still transmit the illness to those are not as healthy, and are elderly, or have chronic diseases.”
Despite medical advances over the years, recent misinformation has resulted in outbreaks like measles. More than 1,200 cases of measles were reported in 2019, the largest number of cases reported in the US since 1992, and since the measles were declared eliminated in 2000. We must remain vigilant in disseminating accurate information to ensure folks feel confident in receiving vaccines.
The flu shot is a seasonal vaccine that is effective in reducing the number of deaths attributed to influenza. We annually experience tens of thousands of influenza deaths in the USA. If the “flu shot” were not available, the deaths would be much higher. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimated in 2018 alone that 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths were averted due to the vaccine.
This year it is especially important to receive the flu shot. The pandemic has already claimed over 200,000 lives. Those individuals most vulnerable were those who had the least amount of physical resistance within their bodies. The last thing we want is to be exposed to COVID 19 while experiencing the common flu. Experiencing the common flu makes it more difficult to battle COVID. So I implore you, get your flu shot!
Dr. Megan Welker, Meridian family practice physician states, “Right now a lot of burden is placed on the healthcare system because of the pandemic, so being able to reduce the number of people that fall ill of the flu is going to help us provide better healthcare overall,” she said.
It is always better to prevent a disease than to treat it after it occurs. Vaccines help us do that. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as other federal agencies, prioritize and monitor the use of vaccines daily. It is their #1 responsibility. As we know from watching the news, all of these groups are helping oversee the development of a vaccine for COVID-19.
In the meantime, each of us has the responsibility to get a flu vaccine. I recall listening to an airline attendant giving instructions should there be an emergency such as smoke entering the plane. More than likely, masks will drop from the ceiling, said the attendant. The attendant instructed us to put our own masks on first before assisting others including our children. Why is that? Because we would not be able to help others if we succumbed to the smoke. A vaccine is like the mask dropping from the ceiling. It helps us remain healthy so we can assist others in becoming healthy.
That’s Meridian’s mission, helping make others, everyone in our community, healthy.
Let’s all do our part and keep all of our families, and our communities, safe and healthy.