It’s no secret that influenza (more commonly known as flu) can be a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. It’s a contagious virus that can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Fortunately, we have flu vaccination to help effectively fight the virus.
Unfortunately, there seems to be no shortage of bad advice and misinformation when it comes to things related to flu and the flu vaccine. So, if you’ve ever had the flu, or you’re looking to protect yourself and loved ones by getting a flu vaccination, it’s important to understand the truths behind some common myths about the flu.
Flu Vaccine Myths and Truths
Let’s take a look at 10 of the most common myths about the flu and the truths behind them.
Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine
This is one of the most common misconceptions about the flu shot. The truth is, the flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection. So, people who get sick after receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. It takes a week or two to get protection from the vaccine. But people assume that because they got sick after getting the vaccine, the flu shot caused their illness.
Myth: The flu shot isn’t effective
Another false assumption is that the flu shot isn’t effective. The truth is, the vaccine can reduce the number of symptomatic flu illnesses by more than half. While the effectiveness of the vaccine can vary from year to year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu shot is 40 to 60 percent effective in preventing the flu, depending on the flu strain circulating and how well-matched the vaccine is to that strain.
Myth: The flu shot is only for children
Many people erroneously believe that the flu shot is only for children or the elderly. But this isn’t true. The CDC strongly recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine.
Myth: If you get the flu, it means the vaccine didn’t work
As we mentioned earlier, it takes time for the vaccine to provide protection. So, if you get sick shortly after getting the flu shot, it doesn’t mean the vaccine didn’t work. It’s simply that you are already infected before the vaccine has time to take effect.
Myth: The flu shot will make you sick
This is another common misconception. The truth is, the flu shot can’t make you sick. It’s made from an inactivated virus and can’t transmit infection. The most common side effect of the flu shot is a sore arm.
Myth: The flu shot can cause serious side effects
This is a myth. While there are very rare cases of serious side effects, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), the CDC estimates that the risk of GBS following a flu shot is less than one case per million doses of flu vaccine.
Myth: The flu shot doesn’t need to be updated each year
The flu virus is constantly changing, which is why it’s important to get an updated flu shot each year. The vaccine is designed to match the current circulating viruses, so getting it each year is the best way to protect yourself.
Myth: You only need one dose of the flu shot
This isn’t true. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu shot, and some people may need two doses of the vaccine to get the best protection.