Flu season is here again, and doctors are recommending that everyone get a flu shot this year, with the exception of certain populations. Still, less than half of those eligible for a flu vaccine will actually get one this year. Despite the insistence of doctors and experts alike, the flu still has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. The reasons for not getting a flu shot vary, but many missed vaccines are the result of false information about what the flu shot does and how the vaccine works. Below, you'll find the top myths about the flu vaccine, so you can separate the fact from fiction when deciding to get your flu shot.
There is a lot of information flying around about the flu vaccine being linked to certain medical conditions or diseases, and none of them are factually accurate. The flu vaccine has never been linked to Alzheimer's, Bell's palsy or narcolepsy, and there have been no confirmed deaths due to the flu shot. In fact, getting the flu is more likely to lead to other health complications than getting the flu vaccine.
Many people mistakenly believe that getting the flu vaccine could result in getting the flu, but this is simply not true. The flu vaccine is made up of the dead or severely weakened virus and will not cause you to get the flu. You may, however, experience certain side effects of the flu vaccine. The most common side effect is soreness at the injection site, which goes away within a day or two.
Only one dose of the flu vaccine is recommended each flu season, and no evidence exist suggesting that more than one vaccine will offer added protection against getting the flu.
Getting the flu vaccine while you're pregnant can actually help build up your baby's immunity to the flu, as well, and the protection can last up to several months after birth (while your baby is too little to receive the vaccine). Talk to your doctor about the best time to receive your flu vaccine prior to delivery.
Your immune system actually gets weaker while you have the flu, and research does not support the idea that people who get the flu have stronger immune systems than those who receive the flu vaccine. Allowing yourself to get the flu also puts other people at risk, who may not be able to receive the flu vaccine or fight off the flu virus.
For people who fear needles, a nasal spray flu vaccine, called FluMist, is also available. In fact, the nasal spray is recommended by the CDC for children between the ages of two and eight years old, when available, and some research shows that the mist may actually be more effective in preventing the flu in children. Side effects from the nasal spray may be slightly more severe than those typically experienced with the flu shot, however, and the spray may be less effective in older adults. Talk to your doctor to decide whether the FluMist is right for you.
Many people believe that the only ones who need the flu shot are people with compromised immune systems who may experience severe complications from the flu virus. However, even healthy individuals can experience severe flu symptoms. In addition, not everyone is healthy enough to receive the flu vaccine (or fight off the flu) and an unvaccinated individual can easily pass the virus onto them if they get the flu. Even healthy adults and children should receive the flu vaccine.
Not only does your body lose immunity after a period of time, but the flu vaccine changes each year to target specific strains of the flu virus thought to be most harmful for that season. In other words, your flu vaccine from last year is likely useless this year, and you should get another flu shot as soon as possible.