Seven Myths about the Flu Vaccine

By Kimberly Cooper, Occupational Health and Infection Control Nurse

This week marks National Influenza Vaccination week. This event was created by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2005 to highlight the importance of getting vaccinated for the flu.  Despite various efforts to get people vaccinated, many myths remain about the flu vaccine. We are going to debunk seven of the most common ones.

Myth 1: You can catch the flu from the vaccine.

This is undoubtedly the most common myth about the flu vaccine. Many people assume that if they get sick after being vaccinated then it was caused by the flu shot. That is not true since the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus. Because it takes up to two weeks to get full protection from the vaccine, those who come down with the virus may have been exposed to the flu before they were vaccinated.

Myth 2: I got the flu vaccine and still came down with the flu. It doesn’t work.

The flu vaccine does not prevent you from getting the flu; however, it may help to lessen the severity of the disease. If you develop the flu after being vaccinated it may help to shorten the length of time that you are sick as well as minimize the symptoms associated with the flu.

Myth 3: It is not necessary to get a flu shot every year.

The CDC recommends that everyone six month of age and older get a yearly flu vaccination. The influenza virus mutates or changes every year so the vaccine changes to meet the strains most likely to cause an outbreak. Also, a person’s immunity from the flu vaccine declines over the course of a year, so getting an annual vaccination will help provide the best protection against the disease.

Myth 4: Antibiotics can help me if I get the flu.

Antibiotics are only effective in killing bacteria; the flu is a viral infection. Anti-viral medications, like Tamiflu, are the best way to fight a flu infection if administered within 48 hours of the start of symptoms.

Myth 5: I’m pregnant so I can’t get the flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine has been found to be safe for pregnant women, regardless of how far along they are in their pregnancy. The CDC recommends pregnant women receive the vaccine by injection and not the nasal spray. The flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women due to changes in the body’s immune system while pregnant.

Myth 6: I’m allergic to eggs so it’s not safe for me to get the flu vaccine.

In the past, it was recommended that patients with egg allergies avoid the flu vaccine since it contains a small amount of egg protein and could cause a potential allergic reaction. The CDC now recommends that if eggs only cause hives, you can safely get the flu vaccine. If eggs cause a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis, you may still receive the flu vaccine, but it must be in a medical setting and supervised by a medical provider who can manage severe allergic reactions.  The exception is for those who have experienced a severe allergic reaction to the flu vaccine in the past. Those patients should avoid getting a flu shot.

Myth 7: Getting the flu vaccine is enough to protect me from the flu.

In addition to the flu vaccine, there are other things we must all do during cold and flu season. Those include regular hand washing, avoiding people who are sick with the flu, not touching your mouth and nose with your hands and cleaning shared areas at least once a day.

Legacy Community Health offers flu vaccines at many of its clinics. Call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.