Flu Vaccine Myths

Influenza vaccination is one of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy this winter. There are many myths floating around about the flu shot, and I am going to bust those myths one by one!

Myth #1: The flu shot gave me the flu.
It is scientifically impossible for the flu shot to give you the flu. Flu vaccines given with a needle are made in two ways: a) a flu viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ or b) using only a single gene from a flu virus in order to produce an immune response. Neither can cause infection.

You still could get the flu, but it’s not because of the flu shot. Here some reasons why:
1) The flu virus can take up to two week to incubate and cause illness. You might have been exposed to the virus before receiving your flu shot.
2) The vaccine can take up to two weeks to work. If you were exposed to the illness in that period of time, you still could get the flu.
3) The flu shot is about 35-60% effective, so it is possible that the shot didn’t work for you. Luckily if you get the flu after being vaccinated the illness will be less severe.
4) You are sick, but not with the flu. People call every illness the “flu”, when in fact influenza is a very specific virus. If you’re up all night throwing up – not the flu. If you’re sniffling and sneezing – not the flu. The flu is typically severe aches and pains, a cough, chills, fatigue, fever and a headache.
5) You have the flu, but not one of the strains covered by the vaccine. The flu vaccine only covers 3-4 strains of the flu, but others circulate.

Myth #2: It’s better to get the flu than the vaccine.
The flu is terrible! Even if you are a healthy adult, you’ll be miserable for a week. If you are a young, old, or live with a chronic illness, the flu can be downright dangerous.

Myth #3: The flu vaccine doesn’t work.
It’s true that the flu vaccine is not always very effective – ranging between 35% and 65%.  So yes, the flu shot doesn’t always work. But neither does any measure you take to prevent illness. Washing your hands is only about as effective as a good flu shot. We’d never tell you not to wash your hands because it’s only 65% effective!

Myth #4: I shouldn’t get the flu shot if I’m pregnant, healthy, sick, etc.
Here is who should get the flu shot – everyone ages 6 months and up.
Here is who shouldn’t get the flu shot – anyone who has ever had an anaphylactic reaction after receiving a flu vaccination or with a severe anaphylactic allergy to a component of the vaccine, anyone with a moderate-to-severe illness, or anyone with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome after receiving a flu vaccine.

Myth #5: Getting the flu vaccine will make you more susceptible to other respiratory viruses
This myth came about after a study conducted in 2012 that suggested this might be true. Since those findings, many other studies cannot replicate the findings. It is not known why that study had those results, but the beauty of science is that we get to test and re-test anything that seems questionable.

So why not get the flu vaccine? The science is clear. Protect yourself and others around you this year by getting vaccinated.

For more information, contact Emily Anderson at eanderson@chaffeecounty.org