The crisp air, the crunchy leaves, and the sniffles in our offices and classrooms give it away; it’s officially the beginning of fall. While the season may be beautiful, the flu that always seems to come with it is certainly not. To protect yourself this flu season, you need to know exactly how the flu operates, so you can separate myth from fact. Here are some of the most common myths about the flu vaccine.
Myth #1: I’ll get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Both the nasal and injected flu vaccines contain either weakened or dead versions of the flu virus. In either case, the virus has been developed in a lab to optimize it for preventing the flu. That means its genes have been manipulated so it can’t survive in areas of the body other than where it is placed, and it is weak enough that the immune system can fight it very easily.
Myth #2: I don’t need a flu vaccine every year.
Immunity protection declines over time, so you should ideally get the flu vaccine every year, as soon as it’s available. It will take about two weeks for you to be fully protected, so the sooner in the season you get the vaccine, the more protected you’ll be when the flu virus really takes hold. The flu virus also mutates very rapidly, so each year’s vaccine will contain changes that help it fight more types of the virus.
Myth #3: If I’m not very old, very young or have a weak immune system, I don’t need the vaccine.
No one can predict how bad the flu is going to be, so even people who are strong and healthy could develop a serious virus. No matter who you are, the flu can often lead to hospital stays or other complications. Additionally, getting the vaccine can protect those around you who may not be as healthy. Herd immunity is a valuable tool for preventing the spread of illness to vulnerable populations.
Myth #4: If I’m pregnant, I shouldn’t get the vaccine.
Pregnant women are highly encouraged to get the flu vaccine, to protect themselves and their babies. A study done by doctors at Yale University School of Medicine found that a flu vaccine administered to pregnant women was 92 percent effective in preventing flu-related hospitalizations in infants for up to six months. The only recommendation that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes in regards to pregnant women receiving the vaccine is that they get the shot and not the nasal spray.
Myth #5: The flu is just a really bad cold or a stomach virus.
The flu is a serious respiratory virus, much more likely to cause complications than the common cold. The flu causes more than 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations annually, so the importance of protecting yourself and those around you can’t be overstated.
Myth #6: I only need the vaccine to protect me from the flu.
The vaccine is very good at reducing your chances of contracting the flu, but it’s not 100 percent effective by itself. To further protect yourself, be sure to wash your hands, don’t touch your eyes or nose after touching germy surfaces and avoid close contact with people who have the flu.
These myths are a testament to the power of rumor when it comes to public health. The flu is a serious illness, but the vaccine is a very effective way to protect yourself this flu season.
Don’t buy into the myths, and get yourself vaccinated at your local AFC !