Louisiana has already seen sporadic cases of flu this season, and state health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated.

For residents who lack insurance, the state will offer free shots during a clinic scheduled for 3-7 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Warren J. Harang Jr. Municipal Auditorium, 310 N. Canal Blvd. in Thibodaux.

State and federal health officials have consistently promoted vaccination as a safe and effective way to help individuals and the community at large avoid  the flu. Nonetheless, myths and misunderstandings about vaccinations have contributed to less than half of American adults getting a shot the past few years.

Asked why they do not intend to be vaccinated, adults in a University of Chicago study in December were most likely to cite concerns about side effects from the vaccine, at 36 percent. Another third said they're concerned the vaccine will make them sick. And another third said don't need the vaccine because they never get the flu or don't think the shot works.

All of those reasons are bogus; health officials around the world have debunked them over and over again.

"Getting vaccinated every year is the best way to lower your chances of getting the flu," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says at vaccines.gov. "Flu vaccines can’t cause the flu. Keep in mind that getting the flu vaccine also protects the people around you. So when you and your family get vaccinated, you help keep yourselves and your community healthy."

That's especially important if you spend time with people who are at risk for serious illness from the flu, like young children or older adults, the agency says.

Flu is one of the deadliest diseases on the planet. Last season, it killed 61,200 Americans, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It sickened an estimated 42.9 million people and hospitalized 647,000 of them. In Louisiana alone, 1,400 people died and 14,000 were hospitalized with the virus.

If you've had a severe bout of the flu, you know how horrible it makes a person feel. It comes on quickly and feels like someone beat you with a 2 x 4 all over your body. Even if you don't require hospitalization, flu can keep you bedridden for days. And you can pass on the virus to the virus to people around you, who are even more likely to contract the illness if they haven't been vaccinated.

Just get a shot. It's the right thing to do -- for you and everyone else.

-- Editorials represent the opinion of this newspaper and not any single individual.