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Common Myths About the Influenza Vaccine

Thursday, December 7, 2023

At one point or another, we understand you may have encountered some speculation about vaccinations. Conversations about the flu vaccine, in particular, have certainly fueled the rumor mill over the years. Here, we separate fact from fiction and clear up some of the most common myths about the flu shot.

Healthy People Don’t Need It

It’s a common misconception that only people with a weakened immune system need the flu shot. But since anyone can contract influenza (and therefore spread it to others), it’s recommended that everyone over the age of six months receive the vaccination against it. As there are some types approved only for adults aged 65 and older, and some children may need two doses, your doctor or pharmacist can recommend the best option for you.

It Can Give You the Flu

The notion of intentionally coming down with the flu isn’t exactly appealing, so it’s no wonder people who believe this myth would be hesitant to get a flu shot. But this fear is baseless, since the injection is made from inactivated viruses that cannot cause the flu.

Though the nasal spray formula does contain weakened flu viruses, it still does not cause infection. After a nasal spray dose, you may experience mild reactions like a runny nose, muscle aches, or cough, but these are much less uncomfortable and inconvenient than those caused by the actual flu virus.

It Causes Serious Side Effects

The flu vaccine is considered very safe. You may have heard about severe side effects caused by the shot, such as Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which causes muscle paralysis and weakness. The odds of contracting this condition from a flu shot, however, are about one in a million. Weigh this against the fact that contracting the flu itself is more likely to cause serious complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, or heart problems, especially in high-risk populations.

It’s Not Worth It if It Doesn’t Guarantee Prevention

More flawed logic than an actual myth, this theory continues to hold people back from getting protection against a potentially serious illness. While it’s true that the flu shot won’t prevent all flu-related illnesses, and effectiveness can vary based on factors like the strength of different circulating strains each season, flu vaccines reduce the risk of the virus by 40% to 60% when the illness is at its peak. And vaccinated patients fare better than their unvaccinated peers, experiencing a lower risk of ICU admission and death.

“In general, even if you were to get sick after receiving a flu shot,” underscores SouthCoast Health Infectious Disease Specialist, Dr. James Everhart “symptoms will most likely be far milder than they would have without vaccination.”

You Don’t Need One if You Were Vaccinated Last Year 

Formulas for the flu vaccine are updated annually based on last season’s activity. This means the shot that protected you last year is outdated, and will be unlikely to offer sufficient protection to reduce your risk of illness for this season. Since there’s no way to detect the severity of this year’s flu season until we’re fully in it, skipping your new vaccination isn’t a risk worth taking.

Looking to get your flu shot this season? Patients who are 14 and up can go for a quick and convenient appointment at our Savannah office. You can schedule your visit online, or make any other appointments or inquiries by dialing our main line: 912-691-3600.

As your partner in total wellness, SouthCoast Health aims to help you take a proactive approach to health with patient-centered resources and comprehensive care. Schedule an appointment online with one of our award-winning providers, including primary care doctors and specialists, or call our office at 912-691-3600.

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