In the time it has taken me to write this article, I have sneezed twice and blown my nose three times. I'm still recovering from the flu and am only at work because a doctor signed off that I'm no longer a contagious danger to my colleagues. After spending a miserable week at home, I am positively pumped to get the flu shot. Apparently, I'm in the minority: less than half of my fellow millennials plan get get the flu vaccine this year.
A survey conducted in September by Harris Poll on behalf of CityMD, an urgent care center network, found 52 percent of millennials don't plan on getting the flu shot during this year's influenza season1. Of those, 49 percent said they don't trust the vaccine will prevent them from getting the flu. Another 29 percent worried that getting the shot will actually make them catch the virus. (That's a common misconception.)
Medical professionals, it turns out, know more about preventative medicine than millennials. The Centers for Disease Control says getting the vaccine is the best way to ensure you won't get the flu. Citing recent studies, the CDC says the vaccine "reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50 percent to 60 percent." Last season, 43.6 percent of Americans got the vaccine, according to CDC data.
For a quarter of millennials polled, it was cost, not conspiracy, that prevented them from getting the vaccine. Penny pinching makes sense when dealing with crippling student debt but a flu shot is reasonably priced, even for those without insurance. Costco charges $14.99 for a flu shot, Walgreens starts at $31.99, and CVS charges $39.99 but offers a 20 percent off coupon on non-pharmacy purchases with the vaccine.
For those who choose to skip the shot, a pack of over the counter flu symptom reliever runs about $24. Add a couple of bucks for some tissues and the cost of treating the flu is roughly the same, if not slightly higher, than paying out of pocket for the vaccine.
Missing work due to illness also takes a financial toll on hourly employees, especially the 38 percent of working Americans who don't have paid sick leave. Employers lose out too: last year, the CDC estimated worker injuries and illness cost businesses $225.8 billion.
Millennials were narrowly the most flu shot adverse of the generations. Among those 35 to 44 years old, 49 percent said they would not get the vaccine. That fell to 48 percent for those 45 to 54 years old and down to 38 percent for those between 55 and 64 years old.
Then there's the 23 percent of millennials who have deemed themselves immune. When surveyed, they answered they "don't think they need it because they've never gotten the flu."
Millennials, you are many things, but you are not superhuman. Talk to your doctor about getting a flu shot.