Autumn has begun here in Massachusetts. The maple leaves are just starting to turn, days are getting shorter, and the house is full of wonderful aromas as we process the 50 pounds of apples we picked last weekend. It was a good year for apples.

Unfortunately, 2018 was also a good year for influenza virus, which killed an estimated 80,000 people in the US alone last season. There's a vaccine against this virus, but millions of people rationalize their way out of getting it each year. Let's see if we can fix that.

You (almost certainly) aren't allergic to it. Even if you are one of the rare individuals with a genuine allergy to eggs, you can still get a flu shot. Some public flu clinics still ask about egg allergies, but any competent medical practice or hospital will administer the vaccine. Unless you've had an actual M.D. tell you not to get this vaccine because they've documented your life-threatening reaction to it in the past, get it.

Most of the people who've died of flu probably didn't expect to. Okay, I don't have statistics to prove this, but given the generally low awareness of influenza's lethality, it seems reasonable. There are no doubt thousands of folks who "never got the flu," didn't consider themselves at high risk, and nonetheless are now pushing up daisies because this virus took them out. Don't be them.

Flu kills kids. 180 of them last year, 80% of whom hadn't been vaccinated. If you think your child is too healthy to get the flu, or that you don't have time to make another trip to the pediatrician, Joey's mom would like to have a word with you. So would these other folks.

The vaccine is free (or cheap) and easy to get. Relax the shoulder, look straight ahead, and it's over. Most folks can get it for free, but even if you have to pay it's only a few dollars.

Flu shots save lives, maybe even yours. Virology geeks like me love to dig into the challenges of measuring flu vaccine efficacy, but there's one thing that's very clear: it's better to be vaccinated than not. The vaccine reduces your odds of becoming a statistic, and also helps protect people around you. There's really no downside.

I got mine. What's your excuse? My town held its first flu clinic of the season yesterday morning. They didn't take my insurance, so I shelled out a whole six bucks. A few minutes later I was walking out of the building with a fresh dose of Fluzone in my arm. My daughter will get hers the next time the pediatrician's office runs a clinic, and my wife usually gets hers at work.

Our apple harvest may or may not keep illness away, but our flu shots should at least give us a fighting chance.

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