And this winter, which epidemiologists predict could deliver a couple of nasty strains of influenza to American shores, health officials are sending a surprising message to the robust among us: Don't get your flu shot.
Wednesday, Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher issued a plea to healthy Americans: Keep your sleeves rolled down until the chronically ill, elderly, very young and pregnant women in our midst get their shots taken care of. Influenza causes 20,000 deaths annually in the United States, generally among those high-risk populations.
Hopefully, those folks will be taken care of by December, Satcher added, when the rest of us should feel free to storm our neighborhood clinics for our piece of the vaccination pie. The height of flu season generally holds off until January, and there'll be plenty of serum to go around, so there's absolutely no need to panic.
Why the staggered schedule? Chalk it up to modern medicine. Apparently, there were a few manufacturing glitches (which have now, happily, been resolved), and that delay meant the vaccine wasn't shipped as early as officials might have liked.