[By Dr Jake Goh]
There are two big misconceptions about the flu. First, people believe that if you’re in good health, your immune system will protect you from the flu. Second, people believe that getting the flu is no big deal, because it’s not deadly. Both of these statements are wrong.
Anyone can get the flu. It is one of the most contagious viruses. For some people, the flu will knock them out for weeks, leaving them feverish, weak, and coughing. For others, it’s more mild and they are still able to function. How the flu affects you depends on your individual immune response and whether you have any chronic conditions.
This year, the flu strains that are showing up in people are ones that are particularly virulent. That is, they are aggressive and have already caused many deaths. These deaths, though rare, are not just occurring in “high-risk groups” such as children, the elderly, and those who are pregnant. They are also occurring in “healthy” adults.
How Effective is the Flu Shot?
The flu vaccine effectiveness varies by year, as the strains used in the vaccine change with every flu season. For this season (2017 – 2018), the efficacy is at 36% against influenza A and B, which includes the “deadly Aussie flu” strain H3N2.
Despite it being rather low, medical professionals say it’s still worth getting “because the vaccine has protective qualities irrespective of the strain”.
How Much Does the Flu Shot Cost?
According to Health Promotion Board, the flu shot costs between $30 and $40. But you can claim the cost of the flu vaccination, along with other vaccinations, from your Medisave Account.
How Much Does Having the Flu Cost You?
Getting sick is no fun. In addition to the fever, aches, and cough, you’ll likely have to pay for medicines to relieve your symptoms. You might also have to pay to see a doctor. But the largest cost is the lost of productivity or work days.
If it takes the average person around 1 to 2 weeks to recover, then those sick days can amount to $1,000 to $2,000 of lost income. This figure is based on the median income of Singaporeans (which was $4,232 for 2017).
Even if you can claim paid sick leave, that lost productivity still affects your employer. And that might be detrimental to your annual appraisal (even if sick leave appears justified to you).
Additionally, not being vaccinated makes you susceptible to spreading the flu to your colleagues. Thus, even after you recover and return to work you may have to do double duty covering for the colleagues that you infected.
Ask anyone who currently is suffering from the flu whether they’d pay $40 to not have the flu, or to have a less severe case of the flu, I bet most people would say “yes”.
Getting the Flu Shot – Some Things to Know
The National Health Surveillance Survey 2013 found that only a measly 15.2% of Singapore Residents received the influenza vaccination in 2012. Imagine how many combined man-hours that the remaining 84.8% of the population possibly lost due to the flu.
While some vaccinations are able to confer lifelong immunity, the influenza shot needs to be taken yearly, because the virus is able to mutate and adapt.
Also, you might get side effects from the vaccine itself, like mild fever, runny nose, and sore throat for one or two days. This is because the flu shot gives you an inactivated virus, and sometimes the body still might respond to the presence of this foreign organism.
But such side effects are definitely not as bad as getting the actual flu itself.
Getting vaccinated is one of the most frugal choices you can make for your health. Along with eating healthy portions, exercising often, and managing stress, these are just some of the things you can do to live healthier, while saving money.
[Dr Jake Goh is a Frugal in Singapore contributor who enjoys making choices that benefit his mind, body and wallet.]