6 Flu Myths Busted – Should I Still Get My Flu Shot This Year?

Flu MythPrevention is the best medicine, and it’s particularly true for the flu. While an annual flu vaccination is still one of the best defenses against this highly contagious respiratory illness, myths and misinformation keep many people from getting vaccinated. Here’s our list of responses to the top six flu vaccine myths, but we also urge you to speak to your doctor or healthcare professional about flu vaccination and prevention.

  1. The CDC just announced this year’s flu shot won’t be that effective, so why bother? According to the Centers for Disease Control’s Dec. 4 announcement, the flu vaccine’s ability to protect against a certain strain of seasonal flu viruses, called influenza A H3N2, may be reduced this year because of changes in the viruses since this year’s vaccine was produced. There are three things to keep in mind, however. According to the CDC, a similar situation occurred during the 2007-2008 flu season and the vaccine still proved to be 37 to 42 percent effective against H3N2 viruses. This year’s vaccination can still reduce the severity of symptoms if people do become infected. And while H3N2 viruses have been the mostly commonly reported so far this season, other types of flu viruses may become more prevalent.
  2. The flu shot will give you the flu. Not true. Flu vaccines contain inactive or weakened flu viruses that cannot cause infection. Since the flu vaccine takes about two weeks to kick in, it’s likely that some people who get the flu shot and then start experiencing flu-like symptoms were already coming down with a cold or flu. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cites studies in which subjects were given either a flu shot or a salt-water injection. In both groups, the number of subjects who reported flu-like symptoms after the either shot were roughly the same.
  3. It’s better to get the flu and let my body fight the infection. In reality, the influenza virus is a very serious infectious disease. According to the website flu.gov, approximately 5 to 20% of the U.S. population gets the flu, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for flu-related complications, such as bacterial pneumonia, dehydration or the worsening of chronic pre-existing conditions, such as asthma. During the past 30 years, flu-related deaths have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 per year. Older people, young children, pregnant women are at higher risk for developing severe flu complications.
  4. It’s too late to get the flu shot. Nope. In fact, National Influenza Vaccination Week runs Dec. 7 though 13, even though flu season generally begins in the fall, starting in October, and can last through May. Keep in mind that flu season typically peaks in January and February, and the vaccines are effective as long as the flu viruses are in circulation.
  5. Women who are pregnant shouldn’t get the flu shot. In actuality, the flu shot is the best protection against seasonal flu for pregnant women. Since pregnancy changes women’s immune systems, they are more susceptible to catching the flu virus, and the flu shot can protect your baby before and after the birth. While the flu shot is recommended, the nasal spray is not. As always during pregnancy, seek your doctor’s advice.
  6. The flu shot doesn’t work. I had one and still got sick. While this situation can happen, it’s possible that people who get the flu even after getting vaccinated may have caught a strain of the flu not included in that year’s vaccination or the virus changed, or may have gotten infected before the antibodies were created. Another reason is the word flu has been used to describe a variety of illnesses that aren’t caused by the influenza virus. Rhinoviruses, which are the culprit behind the common cold, can cause similar symptoms, and we tend to use the words cold and the flu interchangeably.

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