5 Common Myths About the Flu Vaccine

Katherine Corsi, PharmD, BCACP, CDOE, CVDOE
5 Flu Myths Debunked

The flu is a very dangerous virus that can cause serious illness and even death.

During flu season, there are many myths that spread about the flu shot. Understanding the facts about the flu vaccine may help to protect yourself, friends, and family from the flu this year.

Myth 1: You can get the flu from the flu shot.

Fact: The flu shot cannot give you the flu because the virus strain is not active. Some people may experience side effects, such as mild soreness or swelling, muscle ache, and low-grade fever, which can be confused with symptoms of the flu.

Myth 2: The “strain” of the flu shot is never right so it doesn’t work anyway.

Fact: Flu experts review which strains of the flu are in the other areas of the world to predict which will hit the United States. Even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, it can help to prevent severe complications and decrease the time and severity of the illness.  

Myth 3: Waiting until winter will protect me longer.

Fact: Although flu season typically peaks in December through February, you can be exposed as early as October. Flu vaccines become available by the end of August. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting your flu shot by the end of October, if possible. The flu shot takes 14 days to protect you. On the flip side, even if you don’t get your vaccine early, it’s never too late for your flu shot. Flu season lingers into May!

Myth 4: I never get the flu, so I don’t need the vaccine

Fact: Avoiding the flu in the past does not mean you will have a flu-free future. Every year a new flu season puts you at risk. You can also be a carrier of the flu and give it to others by not getting the vaccine. Between 20 and 30 percent of people carry the flu with no symptoms!

Myth 5: Getting the vaccine is all you need to do to protect against the flu.

Fact: Although this is the first step, there are other ways to decrease your risk including:
•    avoiding contact with people infected with the flu or showing symptoms
•    washing your hands frequently with soap and water
•    not touching your nose, mouth or eyes to reduce risk of spreading

Who should get the flu vaccine?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: every person six months and older should get the flu shot, especially the following groups:

  • pregnant women
  • children 6 months to 19 years of age
  • adults 65 years of age or older
  • nursing or group home residents
  • health care workers
  • people with chronic medical conditions such as heart, lung, or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma, anemia, blood disorders, or a weakened immune system
  • people who work or live in high risk areas of flu-related complications

Who should not get the vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that those with severe, life-threatening allergies to the flu vaccine should not be vaccinated. In addition, if you have an allergy to eggs or other ingredients, or a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, you should discuss with your doctor whether the vaccine is right for you.

Which flu vaccine is right for me?

Most people will receive the inactivated flu vaccine as an injection. The flu vaccine is also available as a live attenuated nasal spray. This spray is an option for some non-pregnant people between the ages of two and 49. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor about the right vaccine for you and let them know if you have any of the following:

  • a history of allergic reaction
  • a child or adolescent between ages two and 17 who receive aspirin or aspirin-containing products
  • a history of weakened immune system
  • children between two and four years of age with asthma or history of wheezing in the past 12 months
  • taken influenza antiviral medication in the past 48 hours
  • responsibility for caring for a severely immunocompromised person
  • asthma and are older than age five
  • underlying medical conditions

For those 65 years and older, the high-dose flu shot is the best option.

Where can I get my flu vaccine?

Flu vaccines are available at:

  • your doctor’s office
  • your local pharmacy
  • local health departments
  • clinics
  • colleges

How much does the flu shot cost?

The flu vaccine is FREE for all Rhode Island residents, with or without insurance. For non-RI residents the flu shot is covered by most insurances at either a pharmacy or doctor’s office.
 
For further questions or concerns, your local pharmacists are a great resource to turn to and they can vaccinate at any time. It’s important to start protecting yourself today against the flu with a free flu shot! For more information, visit this website.

Contributing to this post is Kayla Pelletier, Pharmacy Student

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