It may be odd to think about it given how much this year has been dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, but flu season is arriving once more, right on schedule, and it’s time to think about getting vaccinated against influenza. While medical professionals overwhelmingly recommend an annual flu shot for most people, the numbers of vaccinations given each year in the United States tend to lag below 50% of those who should be receiving them. The flu vaccine is an important tool for reducing your risk of infection, but a frustrating amount of harmful misinformation continues to circulate regarding the flu shot and its overall safety.
Can a Flu Shot Give You the Flu?
One of the most common misconceptions about the influenza vaccine is that it may in some cases cause you to get the flu rather than protecting you from it. This is patently untrue, and stems from some basic misunderstandings of how the vaccine actually works. Flu shots are generally composed of an inactivated form of the flu virus, which makes it impossible to cause infection.
What About the Side Effects?
The myth that flu shots can give you the flu is partially contributed to by the fact that some recipients of the vaccine do experience temporary side effects. These may include:
- body aches or chills
- mild fever
- swelling/inflammation around injection site
These effects are somewhat unpleasant, but they typically don’t last more than a day or two. They’re also not caused by the flu or even a mild version of it, but rather an immune response by your body that is designed to fight future infection. This is a side effect of a type of white blood cells called B-cells expending energy to create antibodies against influenza if it is introduced into your body.
Can I Get the Flu Even if I’ve Been Vaccinated?
While the flu vaccine is recommended to help reduce your risk of infection during flu season, it is not guaranteed to prevent you from contracting the virus. According to the CDC, the current version of the vaccine has been 45% effective against the A and B strains of influenza. It also takes some time for your body to create antibodies against the flu, so you still may be vulnerable to infection during the first two weeks after receiving the shot.
Is There Anyone Who Should Not Get the Flu Vaccine?
The CDC recommends that anyone over six months old should receive an annual flu shot with few exceptions. You should not get the flu vaccine if you are currently fighting an illness, as it may cause your white blood vessels to become overwhelmed. You may also want to avoid getting the vaccine if you have suffered extreme side effects in the past. Inform your doctor if you have a chronic condition such as heart disease or asthma, or if you have any severe allergies. The flu shot contains egg proteins, making it inadvisable for most people who are allergic to chicken eggs.
While these exceptions exist, it’s important to remember that the flu shot is for the most part perfectly safe and can be critical to preventing infection and spread of the flu virus during this time of year. Getting a flu vaccination is quick, simple, and covered by most insurance. Visit our website to book your flu shot appointment.