Influenza Vaccination Week: Debunking Myths About the Flu Vaccine

Woman receiving flu shot

The flu vaccine prevents an estimated five million cases of influenza every year. Annual vaccinations lead to less flu-related medical visits, hospitalizations, and medical complications for millions of Americans. Despite its record, there are still many misconceptions about the flu vaccine that keep countless people from getting vaccinated each year. This week, for Influenza Vaccination Week, we are tackling some of the most common myths surrounding the flu vaccine and explaining why it is still important to receive the flu vaccine every year.

Myths About the Flu Vaccine

1. MYTH: The flu vaccine makes you sick

The flu vaccine contains an inactivated strain of the flu virus, so it is impossible for it to make anyone sick. A common side effect of receiving the vaccine is to feel achy or have a low-grade fever, but those side-effects are mild and will only last a day or two. People who contract the flu after receiving the vaccine often blame the vaccine itself, but the vaccine takes one to two weeks to be fully effective against the flu. If you get sick after receiving a flu vaccine, you would have gotten sick regardless.

2. MYTH: You do not need to get the flu shot every year

Each year the flu virus mutates, creating new strains. Receiving a fresh vaccination each year can protect you against the newest forms of the virus. If you are not vaccinated annually, you are at risk to contract newer strains of the flu.

3. MYTH: You do not need to be vaccinated because you can protect yourself in other ways

Although physicians make recommendations to stay healthy during flu season (such as frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with anyone who may be sick), no other method of protection is as effective as receiving the flu vaccine.

Additionally, people often think they can avoid the flu by staying out of wet and cold weather, but the flu is passed exclusively by coming into contact with another person who is carrying the flu virus. You cannot contract the flu virus by being exposed to wind chill, low temperatures, or other environmental factors.

4. MYTH: Healthy adults do not need to receive the flu vaccine

Many people think only young children or older adults are at risk for flu-related complications.  However, flu complications can affect any child or adult. People with compromised immune systems and other chronic conditions are especially at risk. Flu vaccination has been shown to lower the risk of heart attack in people who are already suffering from a heart condition. The flu vaccination also lowered hospitalization rates of people with chronic lung disease and diabetes. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six be vaccinated.

5. MYTH: The flu vaccine does not work

The flu vaccine is formulated to protect you against specific new flu strains each year. It cannot protect you against every single strain; you may still get the flu after being vaccinated because you may contract a different strain than what you were immunized against.

If you have already had the flu this year, you should still be vaccinated to protect yourself against other strains you may not have already come into contact with.

6. MYTH: Pregnant women should not receive the flu vaccine

Due to changes to the immune system while pregnant, the flu can be especially harmful to pregnant women, often resulting in serious side effects, further infection, and hospitalization. Receiving the flu vaccine reduces a pregnant women’s risk of hospitalization by around 40%. In addition to inoculating the mother against the flu virus, the flu vaccine also protects the baby after birth because of antibodies passed from mother to baby. Physicians recommend all pregnant women receive the flu vaccine.

7. MYTH: Not receiving the flu vaccine only affects your own health

Many people do not become vaccinated because they do not see the personal benefit. However, being vaccinated also protects your loved ones and those in your community. People who are immunocompromised, allergic to one of the vaccine’s ingredients, or have another condition that interacts with the vaccine are not able to receive the flu vaccine. If other people around them receive a vaccine, this creates herd immunity and limits their exposure to the virus. It is important for most people to receive the vaccine, because 20% to 30% of people who carry the flu virus experience no symptoms. You can feel fine and still endanger the heath of others.

Questions about the flu vaccine or other important vaccinations? Set up an appointment at your local Capital Women’s Care branch to speak with a physician.

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