Flu Shot Fact and Fiction

Many people avoid getting an annual flu shot because they worry about side effects. Others are wary of vaccinations in general. Others simply don’t like needles. In these and other cases, people who skip their annual flu shot are making a bad decision based on bad information. America is only a few months beyond one of the worst flu seasons in history – last year’s was the longest-running flu season in a decade, and it resulted in a record number of hospitalizations – so now is the time to put bad information to rest and get vaccinated. Let’s debunk some common flu and flu-shot myths:

“You’ll get the flu from the shot.” Not possible. The inactivated virus in a flu shot simply can’t transmit an infection. People who get sick after a flu shot likely already had the flu virus in their system or got the virus in the week or two it takes for the vaccine to kick in. The good news: If you do get the flu after receiving a shot, the odds are good that the symptoms will be less severe.

“If you’re healthy, you don’t need a shot.” Certainly, being healthy boosts your ability to fight the effects of the flu, but you can’t beat the bug simply by being in good health.

“If you got the shot, you’ve got nothing to worry about.” Even if you get the flu shot, you still need to do all you can to avoid getting the virus into your system. Wash your hands. Avoid people with the flu. Observe safe-food practices. In other words, take all the precautions, even if you do get a shot.

“The flu is just a bad cold.” Some flu symptoms are consistent with the common cold, but the virus itself is a lot more serious. Each year, thousands of people die because of the flu.

“If you feel good, you won’t spread the flu.” Between 20% and 30% of people carrying the flu bug have no symptoms, but they can still spread the virus to others.

“If you got a shot late last season, you’re covered for this season.” Different strains of the flu make the rounds each year, and the bug itself can mutate from year to year, so drug manufacturers alter the medication each year to address the particular bugs making the rounds. So, if you haven’t received this year’s shot, you aren’t ready for this year’s flu.

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