PURPOSE: October 2020: Vaccines Save Lives

A monthly letter from Clay Marsh, Vice President and Executive Dean, WVU Health Sciences

WVU Mountaineer Colson Glover receives his annual flu shot. Getting your flu shot this year can help alleviate concerns about a “twindemic” – a scenario that results in a severe flu season coupled with an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Vaccines save lives.

It’s especially important to get your flu vaccination this year to keep yourself and others safe and well during this flu season.

Public health experts are concerned about a “twindemic” during the winter months this year – a scenario that results in a severe flu season coupled with an increase in COVID-19 cases.

Every year, tens of thousands of Americans get sick from diseases such as influenza that could be prevented by vaccines. Some people experience mild symptoms. Some are hospitalized. Some even die.

Diseases that used to be common including polio, smallpox, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, tetanus and others are prevented by safe and effective vaccines.

Vaccinations are our best defense against these diseases, not just when we’re children but all throughout our lives. Vaccines don’t just help protect us — they help protect others who may be too young to be vaccinated or who can’t receive certain vaccines for medical reasons.

Vaccines help us develop antibodies that allow our immune systems to fight off an infectious disease. They provide immunity to a disease without having to get sick first. If a large portion of our community becomes immune to diseases, it makes the spread of these diseases to others unlikely and results in the whole community being protected.

Despite circulating misinformation, data show the current U.S. vaccine supply is the safest in history. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration take many steps to ensure the safety of vaccines as they are created and throughout the years as they continue to be administered.

Before approval, vaccines go through rigorous testing to ensure safety and effectiveness. Like any medication, vaccines can cause mild side effects. Long-lasting or severe side effects are rare.

Thanks to vaccines, many of these diseases have been nearly eradicated in the U.S. But the germs that cause preventable diseases still exist and can be spread to those who are not vaccinated, which is why vaccination remains important. Years’ worth of progress can be undone rapidly without continued vigilance.

Please remember the facts as we navigate flu season during the pandemic and as we become closer to releasing a vaccine for COVID-19. Following guidelines like wearing masks and physical distancing help reduce your chance of being exposed to or spreading the virus. But a vaccination against COVID-19 boosts your immune system to help you fight the virus if you are exposed and will allow us to safely resume life as we knew it prior to 2020 in the U.S.

Please get your flu shot this year to keep yourself and others safe and well this flu season. Remember to seek facts from trusted health sources such as the CDC as information is released about the COVID-19 vaccination in the coming months.

We can do this together. Let’s go.

Clay Marsh, M.D.
Vice President and Executive Dean
WVU Health Sciences