It feels like up until a couple years ago, the accepted line about the flu shot was that you only needed it if you were a) young, b) old, or c) sick, and that maybe it didn’t work that well anyway because it only protects against certain (the most common) strains. Millennials received this info gratefully; finally, a thing we were not responsible for, an errand we did not actually have to do. Unfortunately, this is wrong; in fact, everyone should get the flu shot.
Last year’s flu season was the worst in a decade, worse than the year of swine flu. Over 80,000 people died. There are many factors at work, but a big one that medical professionals attributed to the unusually high rate of deaths and infections was a drop in the rate of adults who bothered to get their shot — yes, those same people between the ages of 18 and 65 who “don’t need” it.
To think about vaccines as they affect each person individually is blinkered; sure, you don’t want to get sick, but more than vaccines prevent individual illness, they prevent illnesses from spreading. We see this already with children in locations where it’s trendy among parents to simply not get their kids vaccinated from preventable diseases like measles out of irrational fears; because of those parents, those diseases spread faster and people die more frequently. Epidemics happen because of new, wild, aggressive disease strains, but they also happen for lack of prevention. More to the point, just because you can afford to miss work or buy medication when you get sick doesn’t mean others can.
In the same way you don’t not vote because nothing is bothering you specifically, you don’t not get the flu shot because you are very likely to survive it yourself. This is how social contracts work: How a collective action impacts you personally is maybe the least important thing, especially if you are in the most privileged group. Please get your flu shot.