One of the most common vaccines that people refuse to get is the influenza vaccine. Flu shots are recommended for everyone one every year. The reason that you must get your flu shot every year is because new strains of the influenza virus come out every year, so new flu shots are developed to protect against these strains. However, there are many common misconceptions about the flu shot! This blog will be slightly different, as I will pose it as a Q&A to address these misconceptions and try to shed a little light on why the flu shot is so important every year.
Q. Is the influenza virus really that dangerous?
A. The influenza virus can easily lead to complications (such as pneumonia or dehydration) which are where the significant dangers lie. Approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized each year because of complications from the flu. Deaths have reached a high of 49,000 people in one year! All children are considered high risk for the flu as they make up a large portion of those who are hospitalized each year. Severe complications from the flu are most common in children ages 2 and younger. Also, if you or your children have chronic health conditions (such as asthma or diabetes), these conditions leave you very susceptible to severe complications from the flu.
Q. If I have my children vaccinated with the flu shot each year, can I decline one for myself?
A. No. Vaccines, as we have discussed in prior blogs, do not have a 100% guarantee for immunity. Since you are the caregiver of your children and you are around them most often, you could easily pass along the virus to your children if you have been infected. If your children have been vaccinated, the virus would be less severe for them, but they will still suffer the symptoms. To ensure the safety of your family, it is recommended that everyone in the household who is able receive the flu shot.
Q. Can I get the flu from the flu shot?
A. No. The flu shot is made with an “inactivated” influenza virus (some shots have no virus in them at all). The FluMist (a spray that is administered by inhaling through the nose) is a live virus, but the virus immediately dies once it enters the body due to the body temperature. Many people claim that they have gotten the flu from the flu shot, but there are a few possibilities for the symptoms they may experience after receiving the vaccine. Once the vaccine is administered, the body must build antibodies over a period of two weeks before full protection is in place. In addition to this, the vaccine can result in mild soreness, particularly at the injection site which can appear as a symptom of the flu. Also, it is possible that when going to a facility to receive the flu vaccine, the person was exposed to the influenza virus which he or she may have contracted before even receiving the vaccine. Or possibly the person contracted a strain of the flu that was not included in the vaccine for that flu season. Finally, as we mentioned above, no vaccine is 100% guaranteed immunity. The person may have contracted the flu after receiving the flu shot, in which case their symptoms will be much less severe than if they had not received the vaccine at all!
The flu vaccine is no different than any other vaccine that has been created. The flu vaccine had to go through years of testing. Study after study had to be performed on the vaccine to ensure the safety of it before releasing it to the public. It is just as important as any other vaccine that we have available and it has the same capabilities as other vaccines to save lives! I personally know someone who died of complications from the influenza virus. Keep your family safe this flu season and have everyone in your family who is able to receive the flu vaccine – this year and every year!
This information and more can be found at cdc.gov.