Generally, flu activity spikes between December and February each year, which means peak flu season is right around the corner. There are many misconceptions and myths about the flu shot that make some wary about getting vaccinated. However, research performed by the CDC shows that the flu vaccine prevents millions of flu-related doctor visits and hospitalizations each year, and can be lifesaving – especially for children. The flu shot is the most effective way to prevent yourself, your family, and those around you from getting the flu. Here is the truth behind the most common flu shot myths.
Myth #1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
One reason that many choose to forgo the flu shot is because there is a common misconception that the flu vaccine can give you the flu. The flu vaccine is not created with a live flu virus therefor it cannot give you the flu. Flu vaccines are created either with an inactivated or “killed” flu virus that is not infectious, or by using one single gene from a flu virus. This allows your body’s immune system to respond to the vaccine, without being legitimately infected by the flu virus.
Myth #2: The flu vaccine has serious side effects.
Another reason many do not get the flu shot is due to the belief that it can cause serious reactions or side effects. Serious allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are extremely rare. The CDC states, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines. There is a chance of experiencing minor side effects from the flu shot, but these will pass on their own. The most common include:
- Soreness or redness at the injection site
- Muscle Aches
If more severe side effects or reactions occur it is usually within a few minutes or hours after getting the flu vaccine, and effective treatments are available if needed.
Myth #3: I’m young and healthy, I don’t need the flu shot.
It is true that people age 65 and older, and young children are at higher risk of suffering from more sever symptoms of influenza however, the flu can and does affect healthy young adults as well. According to the CDC, during the 2017-2018 flu season an estimated 2,873 people age 18-49 years old died from the flu in the United States. Additionally, even as a healthy young adult who may have a fair shot at fighting off the flu, you run the risk of spreading the flu to someone who experiences a higher risk of suffering more severe symptoms. Everyone 6 months and older should get the flu shot to protect both themselves and those around them from getting the flu.
Myth #4: I got it last year, so I don’t need it this year.
The flu vaccine is needed every year – ideally every September-October in New England. The flu shot is needed annually for two reasons. The first is that the flu vaccine typically changes year-to-year. To make the flu shot most effective, every February the World Health Organization evaluates which influenza viruses are most likely to circulate in the upcoming flu season, and then informs vaccine manufacturers which strains the flu vaccine should contain. Second, the protection that your body’s immune system builds up decreases over time. It’s important to get your flu shot annually so that your body is best prepared to fight off the current season’s most common influenza viruses.
Myth #5: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot.
Pregnant women should get the flu shot to help protect themselves and their child. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu-associated acute respiratory infection in pregnant women by up to 50%. Additionally, when a pregnant woman gets vaccinated she offers protection on to her unborn child for the first 6 months of their life until they are old enough to be vaccinated themselves.
Despite the many misconceptions that exist about the flu shot, it is both safe and effective, and everyone 6 months and older should get one every year to best protect themselves from getting the flu. If you haven’t gotten yours yet, it’s not too late! Just walk in to any ConvenientMD in Massachusetts, Maine or New Hampshire to get your free flu shot. We are available from 8am-8pm, 7 days a week and no appointment is needed. Through the end of November, ConvenientMD will be donating $1 per flu shot given to a local charity.