With all the discussion of the COVID-19 vaccines over the past few years, another very effective vaccine has been all but ignored — the influenza (flu) vaccine. Flu vaccines were first used in the World War II and have been one of the most effective means of flu prevention. Flu season — generally considered to be October to May in the United States and Canada — brings with it not just a new flu vaccine but the repeating of various myths surrounding flu vaccinations. Let‘s take on some of these myths and talk about the facts:
Myth #1: You don‘t need a flu vaccine if you are healthy
Healthy people can get the flu as easily as people with medical conditions, and it can have a detrimental effect even if you are young, fit and healthy. The CDC recommends the flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and up, regardless of their health status. A flu infection can leave you feeling miserable for days or even a week or more, and can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Up to 40,000 Americans die from influenza and its complications in an average year.
Myth #2: You don‘t need a flu vaccine every year
The flu vaccine is different every year because the flu is different every year. The vaccine needs to be matched against the strains that are circulating for that specific flu season. A person’s immune protection from vaccination also declines over time. To get maximum protection, you need to get a flu vaccine every year — preferably around the same time of year.
Myth #3: Flu vaccines cause serious reactions and can even give you the flu
The injected flu vaccine consists of an inactivated flu virus, and therefore cannot give you the flu. It’s true that some people don’t feel well after getting a flu vaccine, but their symptoms are usually mild and don’t last. Serious allergic reactions to the flu shot are very rare.
Myth #4: A flu vaccine will give me 100% protection against the flu
Flu vaccines do give you good protection against the flu, but it’s never 100%. Flu vaccines differ in how well they work, and some people who get vaccinated can still get sick with the flu. However, even where a flu vaccine does not prevent the flu, it still reduces the severity of the illness.
Myth #5: Flu vaccines can worsen a chronic health condition
Actually, it’s just the opposite. Getting the flu can worsen conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes and COPD. A flu vaccine protects you against getting the flu, so if you have a health condition, you are much better off getting one. It could save your life! Still, some people with health conditions that weaken the immune system — such as people with cancer or being treated for cancer — should not get the nasal flu mist, which has a weakened version of the flu virus. The flu shot is inactivated virus material and is safe for those with weakened immune systems.
Myth #6: Pregnant women could harm their fetus if they get a flu shot
In fact, a flu vaccine reduces the risk of respiratory illnesses in pregnant women by about one-half and helps protect the unborn baby from flu for several months after birth. The CDC recommends that pregnant women get a flu vaccine.
Myth #7: Flu vaccines cause autism
This has been repeatedly disproved by study after study. There is simply no scientific evidence that flu vaccines (or any other vaccines) cause autism in children or adults.