Common Misconceptions about the Flu Shot

By Michael Galvan | 02/19/2016

Getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu (influenza). Unfortunately, many of the same rumors and misconceptions about the flu vaccines re-surface every year. These myths can scare people away from taking an easy and effective step to prevent the spread of the influenza virus.

Certain individuals such as children, pregnant woman and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the influenza virus. However, many influenza strains are just as threatening to people aged 25-50 (like H1N1). Influenza is especially concerning when you look at the data. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that up to 60 million people in the United States contract the flu every year, 200,000 are hospitalized for related complications, and up to 49,000 die. 1

It is a bad idea to underestimate the flu. That’s we are debunking some of the most common myths about the influenza vaccine.

Myth #1 Pregnant women should avoid the flu shot.

Pregnant women are considered high-risk in developing complication from influenza, and in many cases influenza has led to miscarriages. Both the mother and child can benefit from flu shot during pregnancy, and vaccination is highly recommended by most doctors.

Myth #2 The flu vaccine weakens your immune system.

The flu virus itself weakens your immune system when you are ill. Any protection your body develops against the strain will eventually fade. With the flu shot, you’re protected against each year’s common flu strains without having to get sick or potentially infecting others.

Myth #3 The flu shot will give me the flu.

All the virus particles in a flu shot are inactivated and killed. You can’t catch the flu from an inactivated virus. Inactivated viruses are unable to spread and transmit infection.

Myth #4 It’s better to risk getting the flu and just take antibiotics.

Flu is a virus, and antibiotics are not effective against viruses. Antibiotics attack bacteria, and influenza is a virus. Antibiotics won’t protect or help you recover from the flu, and overuse further weakens the effectiveness of antibiotics.

Myth #5 The flu shot can cause stomach problems and diarrhea.

The “stomach flu” is a common misnomer for a variety of conditions usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or sometimes parasites. These germs are completely unrelated to the inactivated influenza virus in a flu shot. If you have nausea, diarrhea or vomiting after a vaccination, it is probably due to a completely unrelated illness that infected you before the shot.

Myth #6 I never get sick so I don’t need to be vaccinated.

It’s impossible to predict whether or not you will get the flu.  There are several strains of influenza worldwide. Getting a flu shot is also being responsible for public health, because it helps protect the community (some of whom may be very at risk) from getting sick.

Myth #7 One flu shot will protect me for years.

Each year, different flu strains will become more or less common. There is no guarantee that your last flu shot will be effective for the next year. The protection from an influenza shot will weaken with time. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated once every year.

Myth #8 There is no flu vaccination method available for people with egg allergies.

There are now several flu shots that are manufactured without eggs. Flublock® and Flucevax® are both egg free. The American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology also says that the flu injection is safe for most people with egg allergies as long as it’s administered in a doctor’s office.2.

Myth #9 Children shouldn’t get the flu shot.

Children do not have fully developed immune systems, putting them at a higher risk for catching the flu. This makes them the best candidates for the flu shot. One study reported that flu vaccinates were associated with a 74% reduction in flu-related pediatric intensive care unit hospitalizations in children from 2010-2012.3

The influenza virus can cause a serious infection that kills thousands of people each year. Take the time to get a flu shot this season and protect yourself and others.