Published on September 16, 2020

Flu Shots: Myths vs. Reality

woman provider applying band-aide to patient's arm

It's flu shot season and you've likely been hearing a lot about why it's so important to get vaccinated this year. The flu is a serious respiratory illness, which can result in hospitalization especially among the very young and elderly. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization, and death. This year more than ever, it's important to get your flu shot to help stay out of the hospital and reduce the strain on the healthcare system and conserve healthcare resources caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We know you've probably heard a lot of rumors about the vaccine and we're here to help you make informed decisions about why you should get vaccinated this year (and every year).

Myth: I got the vaccine last year, I don't need to have it again.

Reality: The virus changes from year to year, as does the vaccine to give you the best protection. Everyone who is 6 months or older should be vaccinated for the flu every year. In many states, vaccination is a requirement for children 6 months and older to attend in-person daycare or school. There are very few reasons as to why you shouldn't receive the vaccine. The only medical exemptions to flu vaccination are a previous serious allergic reaction to the flu vaccine or a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Myth: I'll get the flu from the vaccine.

Reality: The flu shot vaccine contains an inactive form of the virus and the flu nasal spray contains a weakened form of the live virus, which will not cause the flu. Your body will develop antibodies using the virus contained in the vaccine to help protect you.

While some people may experience mild side effects, like tenderness or swelling of the area where the shot is given, low-grade fever, or body aches, these symptoms typically happen within the first few days while your immune system is being activated to produce antibodies, and then subside. Other serious allergic reactions are rare and usually occur within a few minutes or hours after vaccination. Getting a flu vaccination is still far better than getting the flu.

Myth: It doesn't matter when I get the flu vaccine.

Reality: Peak flu season is typically between December and February, but often lasts through May. Getting your flu shot too early can lead to reduced protection and you should also keep in mind that it takes about 2 weeks for your body to develop antibodies. The best time to get it is in early fall and before the end of October.

Myth: If I get the flu vaccine, I have an increased risk of getting COVID-19 or other respiratory illness.

Reality: There is no evidence to support that you have an increased risk of COVID-19 or other respiratory illness from getting the flu vaccine.

COVID-19 and flu share many symptoms like cough, fever, fatigue, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches, and headache. Both are highly contagious and pregnant women, older adults, and individuals with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of contracting both types of infections. Because of the similarities between both illnesses, you will likely need testing to determine which infection you have. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated.

Sturdy Memorial Associates providers are offering flu vaccinations and clinics. Call your primary care physician to schedule your vaccination appointment to help protect yourself and others this flu season.