Can it really be flu season again already? Flu shots are becoming so convenient that it’s almost impossible to ignore them – even though many of us still balk at the idea of getting a vaccination. You can get a flu shot at your pharmacy, your doctor’s office, and maybe even your school or workplace. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot each year. Unfortunately, many people don’t because they believe one or more of the following myths.
Myth: The flu isn’t so bad.
Fact: The flu can lead to serious illness, including pneumonia, even for otherwise healthy people. Plus, a normal bout of the flu can keep a person out of work or school for several days.
Myth: The flu vaccine will make you sick.
Fact: The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu, although you may get side effects like a sore arm, low fever or achiness. Side effects are generally mild and short-lived.
Myth: Healthy people don’t need a vaccine.
Fact: Anyone can become sick with the flu and experience complications, even people who are active and healthy. Plus, if you get the flu, you may endanger those around you who are at a higher risk for complications.
Myth: You can still get the flu after getting the vaccine.
Fact: This one is partially true for the following reasons:
You may have been exposed to a non-flu virus, such as the common cold.
You may have been exposed to the flu after you got vaccinated but before the vaccine took effect, which takes about two weeks after vaccination.
You may have been exposed to a flu virus that was different from the viruses included in the current year’s vaccine. The standard flu vaccine protects against the three influenza viruses expected to be most prevalent, but other flu viruses circulate as well.
Myth: It’s too late to get protection from a flu vaccine.
Fact: As long as the flu season isn’t over, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu seasons can begin early in fall and last until spring, so getting a vaccine can still be beneficial into the spring months.
Myth: You only need to get vaccinated if family and friends get sick from the flu.
Fact: If you wait until people around you get sick, it is often too late to protect yourself, because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in.
Myth: The discomfort of getting a shot isn’t worth it.
Fact: The very minor pain of a flu shot is nothing compared to the flu. Plus, many people can get the nasal-spray vaccine instead of getting a shot. Talk to your doctor about which is the best choice for you.
Myth: If you got the vaccine last year, you don’t need it this year.
Fact: Research suggests that your body’s immunity from the flu vaccine declines throughout the year, so there is often not enough immunity left to protect you from getting sick for multiple seasons. This is why the CDC recommends a flu vaccine each year.
Myth: The vaccine isn’t safe.
Fact: Flu vaccines have been used for more than 50 years and have a very good safety track record. They are made the same way each year, and their safety is closely monitored by the CDC and Food and Drug Administration.