Preparing for Flu Season With Debbie Dooley

With flu season approaching, the third year of the Johns Hopkins Medicine mandatory flu vaccine program is in full swing. We sat down with Debbie Dooley, an occupational health clinical nurse manager, to talk about why the vaccination is so imperative this year and about other ways to keep the virus away from you and the people around you this season.

Every staff member, trainee, faculty member, student and volunteer who works with patients or works in a patient care area must receive an influenza vaccination by Tuesday, December 2, 2014

This year,vaccination stations will offer a trivalent vaccine or the recently created quadrivalent vaccine, designed to protect against four different flu viruses instead of the usual three. Dooley says the quadrivalent vaccine is available in small amounts and thus will not be available to everyone, but the trivalent vaccine is still a more than sufficient combatant of the virus.

Why is it so imperative to get vaccinated?

I think first, it’s a patient safety issue. It’s important for us, that we can protect our patients from the communicable diseases. Our patients are already sick, and if we are immune to the flu bug, then we are going to protect them.

The second reason is because it’s a health and wellness precaution for our employees to stay healthy during the flu season. It’s shown that if you get a flu shot, you are less likely to get the flu. It’s not 100 percent, but it would certainly be less likely than if you didn’t get the shot.

The third reason is to protect our families. We don’t want to expose our families to the flu. It’s actually something the whole family should do together to promote their health during this time.

When should people get vaccinated?

We encourage people to get their flu shots now so that their immunity is established before the holidays. I always say it’s important to get your vaccination by mid-November, because when the holidays come, we’re all around each other, and it’s easier to share germs. It takes two weeks for the regular shot to reach full immunity for most people, so it’s important that you get the vaccination two weeks before the holiday’s start.

Are there increased concerns this year with some of the other stories on viruses making news this year?

Definitely. I’m hearing a lot more people interested in also getting pneumonia and shingles vaccinations, which are also related to the spread of bacteria. So I think that has spurred people into looking at protecting themselves with all vaccines to keep themselves as healthy as possible, especially with these other virulent viruses out there. So if you can keep yourself healthy and keep your immune status up, then you’ll be able to fight those as well.

What other precautionary measures can people take to protect themselves this year from the flu?

The number one thing is to always wash your hands. Just touching your face after you’ve touched something unclean can cause you to be exposed to germs, so use the sanitizers and the sanitizing devices you see around. You see people carrying that around with them when there are not adequate facilities to wash their hands, that’s a great thing you can do.

Another thing is to keep yourself hydrated and to eat well. You should also get a good night’s sleep so that you aren’t run down and so your immunity status stays strong. Exercising is important, too. All those things, especially this time of the year, are so important to do, because you keep your body in shape to fight these viruses.


For more information, including schedule and locations for flu vaccination, please visit

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