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10 Myths About Flu Vaccines

The flu (influenza) causes millions of people to get sick every year in the United States. One way to slow the spread is through flu vaccination.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu vaccines help prevent millions of flu-related illnesses, plus thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and bad advice about flu vaccines. New and scary myths spread quickly - just like the flu.

At Banner Health, your health and well-being are our top priority. That’s why we care deeply about separating the myths from the facts about flu shots. Here, we debunk the top 10 most common myths about the flu.

Myth #1: I don’t need the flu vaccine because I am healthy.

Fact: While people in high-risk groups need to get the flu vaccine, everyone – even healthy people – should get one too. The CDC recommends yearly vaccination against the flu for everyone older than 6 months, including pregnant people.

Getting vaccinated helps protect you and those around you. Healthy people can spread the virus to others at high risk for complications, including young children, older adults, pregnant people and individuals with chronic medical conditions and/or weakened immune systems.

Learn more about flu vaccinations.

Myth #2: Flu vaccines give you the flu.

Fact: The flu vaccine does not cause the flu. Flu shots are made from inactivated (killed) viruses, and nasal spray vaccines contain weakened live viruses. Neither type of flu vaccine will give people the flu.

Some people may experience mild side effects like soreness where the shot was given, a low-grade fever or muscle aches. These are normal immune system responses and should go away in one or two days.

Myth #3: I had the vaccine and still got the flu, so it doesn’t work.

Fact: It’s true that some people who get vaccinated still get the flu. However, the flu vaccine can greatly lower your risk of catching the flu and any related illness or hospitalization.

If you do get sick, it’s possible you were already exposed to the flu virus shortly before getting vaccinated; the flu virus you caught was not included in the vaccine for that year; or you became ill from another type of virus that causes similar symptoms.

When more people choose to vaccinate, health care providers and the CDC are able to pinpoint flu strains, keep more people out of the hospital and better protect you and your family.

Myth #4: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I’m covered this year.

Fact: The flu virus changes each year, and so does the flu vaccine. You need to get a flu vaccine every year to stay protected against the flu strains that will be circulating for the upcoming year.

Myth #5: I got the flu already this year, so I am immune.

Fact: Having the flu doesn’t guarantee you won’t catch it again in the future. While natural infection may provide some immunity, each virus strain is a chance for you to get sick again.

The flu vaccine is your best (and safest) defense against the flu without getting sick. Since the flu strains change each year, getting vaccinated helps your immune system protect against those strains.

Even if you get sick with a different type of flu than the one in the vaccine, vaccination reduces your risk of getting very sick and protects those around you from getting sick.

Myth #6: I’m pregnant, so I shouldn’t get the flu vaccine.

Fact: Pregnant people and those who are nursing (breastfeeding) should get vaccinated because they have a higher risk for serious problems from the flu.

The flu shot protects you and provides protection to your baby during the first few months of their life. This is especially important because infants younger than 6 months old can’t get flu vaccines and are also at higher risk of complications.

The CDC recommends that pregnant people get a flu shot instead of the nasal spray vaccine.

Myth #7: Natural remedies, like herbal supplements or essential oils, are just as effective as the flu vaccine.

Fact: No scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of herbal remedies or essential oils in preventing or treating the flu. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from the flu.

Myth #8: It’s too late to get the flu vaccine once flu season has started.

Fact: If it’s after New Year’s Day and you’re wondering whether it is too late to get your flu vaccine, it is not. It’s worth getting vaccinated, even in January, February or March. Flu season can often last well into May. Late protection is better than no protection at all.

Getting vaccinated is quick and easy. Many clinics, pharmacies and grocery stores offer flu shots without an appointment. There is no cost to you with most insurance or government health plans. Find a location near you.

Myth #9: I’m allergic to eggs, so I can’t get the flu shot.

Fact: You can still get a flu vaccine if you have an egg allergy. It’s true that most flu shot and nasal spray vaccines may contain a tiny amount of egg protein. However, studies show that the amount is so small that it is unlikely that you will have a severe allergic reaction.

Additionally, there are now two flu vaccines (Flublok Quadrivalent and Flucelax Quadrivalent) that don’t contain egg proteins.

Talk to your health care provider about your options if you have an egg allergy.

Myth #10: The flu is just a bad cold. It’s no big deal.

Fact: Many people say they have the flu when they actually have a cold or other respiratory virus. The truth is that the flu can be dangerous and can cause serious complications, and sometimes even death.

On average, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the flu season leads to millions of medical visits, hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.

It’s not too late to get vaccinated. Getting your flu shot will decrease your chances of serious flu complications. It will also help slow the spread of the virus to people at high medical risk.

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