Submitted by Jenny Bates, Director of Wellness Programming at Hendricks Regional Health
I sometimes think there are as many urban myths about the flu vaccine as Area 51 and the man with a hook for a hand. But the truth is, getting vaccinated against influenza is a very important way to safeguard your health. So here are some of the most common flu shot myths – DEBUNKED.
Myth 1: The flu vaccine will give me the flu.
Debunked: This myth, above all others, drives healthcare professionals kooky. The injected flu vaccine contains only dead virus. And the whole point of dead, is well, it’s dead. It can’t make you sick. And although the nasal vaccine does contain live virus, it is specially engineered to remove the parts of the virus that make people sick.
Remember, flu season is during the same time period that many people get colds. So, instead of blaming the flu shot if you come down with the sniffles, you might instead look to your kiddo or co-worker’s runny nose and less-than-fabulous handwashing habits.
Myth 2: A pregnant woman should not get a flu vaccine because it could potentially harm her unborn baby.
Debunked: The flu vaccine is important for pregnant women because it protects both her and her baby. According to the Centers for Disease Control, if a pregnant woman contracts influenza she is five times more likely to become severely ill. In addition, since babies cannot get the flu shot until they reach six months of age, the immunities passed on from mom are even more crucial.
Myth 3: If I never get sick, I don’t need to bother getting a flu shot.
Debunked: Everybody who can get a flu shot, should. Period. If you are young and healthy, it’s true you will likely recover just fine from the flu. But why get sick in the first place if you can prevent it? Also, it’s important to keep in mind all of the people in your life that would likely not recover easily from the flu – such as small children, the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions.
Myth 4: If I got a flu shot last year, that should be good enough.
Debunked: It is easy to be confused about this. After all, we don’t get vaccinated for other things, like measles or tetanus, every single year. But with the seasonal flu, it is important to get the vaccine each year. That’s because the dominant flu strains change from year to year, so getting vaccinated annually keeps you protected.
Myth 5: If you haven’t been vaccinated by November, it’s too late.
Debunked: It’s true earlier is better, because it takes two weeks for your body to build up immunities to the flu after receiving the vaccine. (Another related myth is that if you get vaccinated too early, you won’t be protected for the full flu season. That is not true – today’s flu vaccine is meant to last for the whole year regardless of when you get it.)
Keep in mind that flu season often doesn’t peak until February, or even March. So getting vaccinated is key, even if you are a little late.
Here’s to a healthy flu season for all!