Commander's Corner: Influenza vaccination, you and your IMR

  • Published
  • By Col. Paul Smith
  • 319th Medical Group acting commander
A new influenza vaccination (aka flu shot) season: a time with not only new hopes and dreams, but also new coughs, new sneezes and new opportunities to miss important and potentially life-changing events.

But fear not, YOU can change this. Do the right thing. Make yourself better. Be the warrior and bring the might of the world's most powerful Air Force down upon our enemies. Well, we started vaccinating active duty members over a week ago, what are you waiting for?

We're all supposed to maintain our Individual Medical Readiness (IMR) to deploy. The key word is INDIVIDUAL, as in YOUR responsibility. This includes YOUR flu shot, as well as, YOUR annual Periodic Health Assessment, YOUR annual dental exam, YOUR lab requirements and YOUR other immunization requirements. You can't expect to strike fear into the hearts and souls of our enemies without deploying.

Our employer, the Department of Defense, requires each one of us to receive an influenza vaccination every year. Most of do this as a matter of course without complaint. However, "most of us" isn't all of us and the MDG has to track down a few folks every year to comply with the DoD requirement. The reasons given for not receiving a flu shot are many, but let's explore a few of the most common.

"I don't like needles." Have we got a deal for you; there's Flu Mist; a needle-free option available to most of us.

"I don't like Flu Mist." Have we got another deal for you; you may qualify for the injectable option.

"I've never had the shot before and I've never gotten the flu." You're very lucky or you're a parasite. Let's investigate option two, the most likely reason. The reason you're not getting sick is everyone else is doing the right thing and getting vaccinated. Since the majority of the military population gets vaccinated, the entire military population is less likely to get sick, and therefore less likely to pass the virus to you. Since you're less likely to get the virus, you don't get sick. You're letting others shoulder your responsibility; you're benefitting at the expense of the population; you're a parasite.

Check out what the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has to say:

- The composition of the flu vaccine is determined by global influenza surveillance data, which includes data from the DoD.
- The vaccine prevented 6.6 million influenza cases and 3.2 million cases that needed medical attention while resulting in 17,000 fewer hospitalizations in 2012-2013.
- From 1976 to 2007, deaths from influenza ranged from 3,300 to 49,000.
- The current vaccine includes protection from H1N1, Swine flu, which infected one third of the world's population and killed approximately 50 million (read 50 with six zeroes behind it) people in the 1918 pandemic.
- More recently, swine flu was responsible for 527 deaths in 2009 and over 243 deaths last year in the United States.

You might think those deaths were a long time ago or the most recent numbers are fairly small, unless of course you or someone you know is one of them. So what can YOU do to make sure you're not just a number to the rest of us? Get your flu shot!

In addition to getting your flu shot, make sure you stay current on your other IMR requirements. You can check your IMR status by going to the Air Force Portal, scrolling down to the Fitness and Health links and clicking on the My IMR/ASIMS-Medical Readiness & Deployment Health link. It's easy to understand at a glance: Green = deployment requirement met = GOOD, while Red = requirement not met = BAD. If you're deploying, additional medical requirements are loaded against your name and you can check on your status by logging into the ASIMS website, as well.

To sum it up, get your flu shot. It'll give you a warm fuzzy feeling inside knowing you've done your part and are not only protecting yourself, but all of us. It'll also keep you IMR "Green", which is good and equals ready to strike fear into the hearts and souls of our enemies by bringing the might of the world's most powerful Air Force down upon them. So, have a happy influenza vaccination season, get vaccinated and stay green!