U.S. 1 takes its winter break: There will be no paper on Wednesday, December 25. Regular weekly publication resumes Wednesday, January 1. Happy holidays!

It’s Not Too Late for a Flu Shot

It’s not too late! No, it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine to protect yourself against this highly contagious infection that packs a powerful wallop with its fever, sore throat, muscle aches, inflammation of the brain, spine, and heart, along with watery eyes and leaking nose. And let’s not forget the violent coughing and sneezing that contaminate the air with viral particles, which family, neighbors, and anyone can inhale, becoming additional flu victims.

Although October and November are the recommended months for vaccination, getting vaccinated from December to March can still protect you because the flu season often peaks after January and can last until March. It’s not too late.

The current vaccine reduces the risk of contracting flu by 50 to 60 percent. And flu vaccine will not, repeat, will not, give you the flu as the vaccine has been inactivated — killed, or consisting of a single gene, not an entire virus, making it biologically unable to cause illness.

Further, the vaccine does not contain mercury as the pre-filled syringes contain only a single dose, so no need for a preservative. Nor need you be wary of the injection as the vaccine goes into the skin not muscle, which means a smaller, thinner, sharper needle. Mosquitoes would love to have that.

Let’s be clear that having had the vaccine last year does not get you a free pass this year, as the vaccine’s protective ability declines over time and flu viruses are constantly changing. That’s why each flu season requires a newly constituted vaccine to protect against the specific viruses circulating that year.

To the question, how much of a problem is the flu anyway? The numbers tell a grim tale. Some 960,000 people were estimated to have been hospitalized and 79,000 died during the 2017-’18 flu season. That’s one hellova lot of sickened folks who could have dodged those viral bullets with flu vaccine. And it’s worth recalling that the 2018 flu season marked 100 years since the 1918 “Spanish Flu” pandemic (that actually began in Kansas) and took the lives of about 50,000,000 men, women, and children around the world. The 2018 attack hit the U.S. extremely hard. Was that coincidence or a warning? We must avoid a repetition of the 2018 numbers this season.

The greatest risks of infection in 2017-’18 were the elderly and our youngsters. Folks 65 and older accounted for over 85 percent of flu-related deaths and 69 percent of hospitalizations. 27,778 kids age 4 and under were hospitalized and 118 died. Curiously, in the wipeout of 1918, 18 to 30-year-old men were hit the hardest. No one knows or can tell what age group will be next viral target as viruses are cunning predators able to mutate frequently and quickly.

Currently we can only strike at viruses circulating around the world this year. That’s why our vaccines, newly made each year, consist of three or four of those flu viruses that appear to be infecting most people around the globe. But help is on the horizon. Universal vaccines capable of protecting against any virus with one injection or inhalation, and good for a lifetime, are being developed. Until then however, we must use the vaccines available, and the trick is to get at least 70 percent of our population immunized in order to protect others who are medically precluded from using flu vaccine.

Unfortunately, to get to that protective 70 percent, facts, not myths are needed. Hopefully, I’ve provided a number of facts to dilute the myths that have kept and continue to keep people unvaccinated.

Another cardinal question: Is it safe to get flu vaccine during pregnancy? It is essential to understand that women experience changes to their bodies that can affect their immune systems, lungs, and heart, which makes them especially susceptible to the flu. Consequently the Centers for Disease Control recommends that pregnant women receive flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy to protect themselves and their newborn from flu for up to six months after birth.

And then we ask the urgent question, if I get the flu vaccine, can I still get the flu? Yes. Rare instances have been reported, but your symptoms will be far less severe. Surely that’s beneficial. So, yes, get the vaccine.

Although Influenza shares coughing and sneezing with the common cold, the comparison is odious. Flu is far more dangerous and not worth the risk of going without the vaccine. As more people refuse the vaccine, there will be greater risk of infection for the rest of us. That’s a fact.

Remember, 70 percent of the population needs to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity. It’s not too late to do so.

Locally, single-dose vaccine can be obtained at Wegman’s Pharmacy, CVS, Walgreens, and of course your primary care physician, which means you’re more than likely to be close to any number of certified vaccine centers. Away with dawdling. Let’s get it done.

Dr. Melvin Benarde


The writer is a retired epidemiologist.

Don’t Rally, Vote

The letter writer in the December 11 edition had only one thing right: No one should be above the law. Former FBI subjects will face criminal charges and indictments before the 2020 elections.

President Trump was doing his job by telling Ukraine the U.S. will financially support countries who rid themselves of corruption. Many presidents before have been obliged to do the same. If Joe Biden was involved in corruption, he should not be a candidate for president. Because Mr. Seda-Schreiber doesn’t want President Trump in office, you wish to impeach him? The president, who clearly submitted to the public transcripts of conversations with Ukraine? Please.

Vote your displeasure of Trump’s personality in November. Save us all these wasteful rallies.

Kathy Matches


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