Myth-busting: 7 facts about the flu shot

Getting a flu shot is simple enough. Finding reliable info about its safety and effectiveness? Not so simple.

Getting a flu shot is simple enough. If you’re a Blue Shield of California or Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan member, you can get access to flu shots at convenient, safe locations.

Finding accurate information about the flu shot can be less simple. Get the facts and protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community this fall.

Myth 1: The flu vaccine can give me the flu

FACT: No matter what type of flu vaccine you get, it will not give you the flu. Have you ever felt achy or slightly feverish afterward? If so, it’s a normal reaction by the immune system to the vaccine. It normally lasts just a couple of days. But it’s not the flu.

Flu shots are made with either:

  • Inactivated (killed) viruses
  • A single protein from the flu virus

Nasal spray vaccines do contain live viruses. But these are attenuated (weakened) so that they will not cause illness.

Myth 2: The flu shot isn’t safe

FACT: Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu shots over the past 50 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A lot of research supports its safety.

Severe allergic reactions from a vaccine are very rare. They’re estimated at less than one in a million doses. If a reaction were to occur, it would usually be within a few minutes to a few hours after the vaccination.

Myth 3: I’m young and healthy – so I don’t need a flu shot

FACT: The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older (with rare exceptions).

The flu is a contagious disease. Even for generally healthy people, it can lead to: 

  • Serious illness
  • Missed work
  • Hospitalization

What’s more, spreading the virus puts children and older adults at risk.

Myth 4: I don’t need a flu shot every year

FACT: Flu viruses are constantly changing. The vaccine that protected you last year, say, isn’t likely to protect you this year. That’s why flu vaccines are typically updated from one year to the next. 

Also, the protection a vaccine gives you lessens over time. Getting vaccinated every year in the fall gives you the best protection.  

Myth 5: It doesn’t work anyway – I got the shot before and still got the flu

FACT: It’s easy to mistake symptoms from a very bad cold for the flu. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza virus. It does not protect against other respiratory illnesses. It’s also possible you have may have come down with a different strain of the virus not included in the latest vaccine.

You may even have been exposed to the flu virus just before getting the vaccine. And because the vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect, you were probably going to get sick anyway. Even if you do get sick, the severity of your symptoms may be milder and/or the duration of your illness may be shortened. 

Myth 6: The flu’s just a bad cold – why do I need a shot?

FACT: Some symptoms of the cold and flu do overlap. Think runny nose, sneezing, and cough.

However, the flu and cold are caused by different viruses. The flu certainly isn’t just a “bad cold.” It’s a serious disease that can cause hospitalization or even death.

During the 2018-2019 flu season, the CDC estimated:

  • 35.5 million people getting sick with the flu
  • 16.5 million people going to a healthcare provider
  • 490,600 hospitalizations
  • 34,200 deaths

Myth 7: I can't spread the flu if I’m feeling well.

FACT: Actually, 20% to 30% of people carrying the flu virus have no symptoms.

Skipping your flu shot not only puts you at risk but also your family and friends who you may spread it to. 

When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu virus can spread through a community. You’re also helping protect those around you who are unable to get a flu shot such as infants. 

Protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community. Do your part to help an already stretched healthcare system. Get your flu shot today!

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