Influenza ("the flu") kills at least 3000 people in the United States each year. In years of influenza epidemic, more than 49,000 people have died from this preventable viral infection. Each year, the vaccine is created based upon the estimate of the 3 -4 most common types of influenza likely to hit the country - so it is important to vaccinate every year.
In this week's Journal of the American Medical Association, health records of nearly 3000 people who were hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza were analyzed. This analysis proved that persons who received the influenza vaccine were 57% less likely to be hospitalized from influenza than persons who declined vaccination. The study only included healthy outpatient persons - persons at normal risk for influenza each year.
Influenza is a virus infection of the respiratory system - often the lung - and is the most common cause of viral pneumonia (and death due to viral pneumonia). "Stomach flu" (nausea and vomiting, sometime intensely for 1 - 2 days) is NOT caused by the influenza virus or by the vaccine. You cannot catch influenza from the vaccine. For people with weakened immune systems, there is now a high potency influenza vaccine available.
Take home point: people who get vaccinated are much less likely to be hospitalized and die from influenza pneumonia. Stay out of the hospital and morgue this winter - get vaccinated!