5 Common Flu Shot Myths, Debunked
The height of flu season is just around the corner, and health professionals are urging patients to take action now to avoid getting sick later. Despite warnings that influenza can cause serious illness or death, particularly in the very young or very old, fewer than 50% of U.S. patients receive the vaccine each year, according to the CDC.
Rob Danoff, DO, an osteopathic family physician from Philadelphia, notes that patients who get an annual flu shot are far less likely to require hospitalization or other medical care.
Dr. Danoff weighs in some of the common myths associated with the flu vaccination:
- Myth: The flu shot will make you sick.
The vaccine contains inactive strains of the flu virus, so it cannot cause the flu, says Dr. Danoff. The shot can cause low grade muscle soreness and cold symptoms, which can be mistaken for early signs of the flu. It can take up to two weeks after receiving the vaccine to develop full immunity. If you do become ill directly after getting the flu shot, you were likely exposed to the virus prior to being vaccinated.
- Myth: The flu shot doesn’t work.
Studies show the effectiveness of the flu vaccine falls between 30-80%, according to Dr. Danoff. Because the vaccine is developed 6-9 months in advance of flu season, it can be difficult to predict which virus strains will circulate during a given year. Experts agree that even if you do get sick after receiving the flu shot, the vaccination will help decrease the severity of your symptoms.
- Myth: If you were vaccinated last year, you’re still protected.
The antibodies resulting from the flu vaccine don’t remain active from year to year, says Dr. Danoff. Experts agree the best time to get vaccinated falls within October and November, which will give you enough time to build antibodies before the flu season is in full swing.
- Myth: Flu vaccines contain dangerous and harmful chemicals.
The flu vaccine is safe, Dr. Danoff stresses. In addition to the antigens that help the body develop immunity, vaccines contain very small amounts of other ingredients necessary for safety and efficacy. There is no evidence these ingredients cause any harm. Those with certain allergies or Guillian-Barre syndrome should avoid the flu shot. Likewise, those who are actively sick should recover before receiving the vaccination.
- Myth: Children and pregnant women shouldn’t get the flu shot.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all patients 6 months and older get vaccinated each year, including pregnant women and people with medical conditions.
Focusing on preventive care, Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or DOs, look beyond your symptoms to consider how environmental and lifestyle factors impact your health. They are trained to listen and partner with you to help you not only get healthy, but stay well.