The flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family. However, misconceptions about vaccination persist.
Here are seven common myths about vaccination.
Flu Myth #1 A Flu Shot Causes the Flu
No, a flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the vaccine during the process of making vaccine, and batches of flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe. In randomized, blinded studies, where some people get flu shots and others get salt-water shots, the only differences in symptoms was increased soreness in the arm and redness at the injection site among people who got the flu shot.
Flu Myth #2 The ‘Stomach Flu’ is a Form of the Flu
Many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. These symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. While vomiting, diarrhea, and being nauseous or “sick to your stomach” can sometimes be related to the flu — more commonly in children than adults — these problems are rarely the main symptoms of influenza. The flu is a respiratory disease and not a stomach or intestinal disease.
Flu Myth #3 The Flu Shot is Dangerous
Over the last 50 years, seasonal flu vaccines have had very good safety track records. Over the years, hundreds of millions of Americans have received seasonal flu vaccines. Every year the same methodical process is used to make vaccine to protect against the different flu strains. Vaccination is the gold standard of care recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), safe to receive and the most effective way to protect against the flu and spread of infection.
Flu Myth #4 Younger, Healthier People Don’t Need a Flu Shot
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season as everyone is at risk of infection. This includes health care workers, pregnant women, people 65 and older, people who have certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, and people who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications.
Flu Myth #5 Antibiotics will Treat the Flu
Because flu is caused by viruses and not by bacteria, antibiotics aren’t effective. Antiviral drugs can treat flu illness. They can make people feel better and get better sooner and may prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia, for example, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. These drugs are different from antibiotics, but they also need to be prescribed by a doctor. They work best when started during the first 2 days of illness. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat the flu in people who are very sick (for example people who are in the hospital) or people who are at greater risk of having serious flu complications. Other people with flu illness may also benefit from taking antiviral drugs and should see their physician.
Myth #6 The Vaccine Does Not Work, Why Get it
The flu vaccine is the single best way to prevent the flu, and vaccination is the main tool used to protect people from influenza. But protection is never 100 percent, and some people can still get the flu after being vaccinated. How well the flu vaccine works (or its ability to prevent influenza illness) can range widely depending on who is being vaccinated. In general, the flu vaccine works best among young healthy adults and older children. Some older people and people with certain chronic illnesses might develop less immunity than healthy young adults after vaccination. However, even for these high-risk individuals, the flu vaccine still can provide protection against getting severe complications from the flu. While determining how well a flu vaccine works is challenging, in general, recent studies have supported the conclusion that influenza vaccination benefits public health, especially when the viruses in the vaccine and circulating viruses are well-matched.
Myth #7 It’s Too Early to Receive a Flu Shot
Flu seasons are unpredictable. They can begin early in the fall and last late into the spring. As long as flu season isn’t over, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even during the winter. Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family. The flu vaccine offers protection all season long.