We get medical information from a lot of sources: a doctor or a friend, scientific research, a Google search, an article, or even an inkling. While it’s helpful to have a wealth of information at our fingertips, confusion or misinformation is out there, especially regarding the flu vaccine.
This year during the COVID-19 pandemic, getting your flu shot will be more important than ever before. To make sure you’ve got the facts, Emily Simpson, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Mercy Health, is addressing the top five myths about the flu vaccine.
The myth: The flu vaccine makes people get the flu.
The facts: “The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu, since it’s a piece of dead flu,” says Dr. Simpson. However, she acknowledges that some people may experience flu-like illness after getting the vaccine for other reasons.
One scenario could be the person got the flu before the flu vaccine had enough time to build up the body’s full immunity, which takes about two weeks. Another possibility is the person got sick with a flu-like illness around the same time, despite illness not being the same strain as the one in the vaccine.
Dr. Simpson recommends people get the flu vaccine because it truly helps prevent the flu, protects others from getting the flu and lessens the symptoms if we do get sick.
The myth: The flu vaccine isn’t safe.
The facts: “We have many people looking at the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine over many years. It’s extensively researched and should be safe for most everybody,” says Dr. Simpson. “I have four children of my own and never have any reservations in getting them vaccinated every year.”
One group that should not get a flu vaccine are children under six months. Besides this, it’s recommended that everyone get the flu vaccine. Adults who are 65 or older can ask for a vaccine that is formulated to be most effective for their age group, if available.
If you have any concerns, your primary care provider can address your individual situation.
The myth: If I have an egg allergy, I can’t get the flu vaccine.
The facts: Many people with egg allergies can still get the vaccine. It just depends on their type of allergic reaction.
According to the CDC, people with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives should receive the flu vaccine. People with allergic reactions to eggs that require medical intervention should still receive the vaccine, but just in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting. This precaution allows them to be under the supervision of a medical professional who can recognize and manage severe allergic reactions, if necessary.
Talk to your primary care provider about your specific situation, as well as your questions and concerns.
The myth: If I’m healthy and don’t get the flu, I don’t need a flu vaccine.
The facts: It’s still important to get the flu vaccine! The vaccine is safe, effective and can make you less sick even if you do get the flu.
By getting the vaccine, you are also protecting those around you. Kids are most likely to get sick, and people older than 65 have the most flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Even if you don’t fall into those categories, you can help protect others by getting the flu vaccine.
This is even more true this year with COVID-19. Getting COVID-19 and the flu at the same time could result in a long hospital stay and need for intensive care. Not only is that dangerous for each of us individuals, it could also put additional pressure on hospitals already treating COVID-19 patients.
“It’s being a good citizen of the community and trying to protect those more vulnerable around you,” says Dr. Simpson. “I feel like it’s my job to help other people by keeping myself healthy.”
The myth: I got a flu vaccine last year, so I don’t need to get another one this year.
The facts: “Yes, you do need to get a vaccine this year, because your immunity wanes and the flu virus is tricky and mutates,” says Dr. Simpson. “The strain of flu may be slightly different to evade your body’s immune system. So, get one every year! My best recommendation to my patients is to get it by Halloween.”
Get connected with one of our primary care providers to learn more about the flu vaccine.