Busting Deadly Myths About the Flu Shot
Flu season is in full swing, but it’s not too late to receive a vaccine. The flu can have a devastating effect on people of all ages, especially those with a compromised immune system. In fact, in 2017, about one million people in the United States had the flu, and more than 80,000 people died of complications last year. Of those that died, it’s estimated 80 percent did not get the vaccine. So, what is stopping you? It could be one of the many myths that still exist about the vaccine. Here are the facts:
- The flu vaccine can’t get you sick. Robert Tracy, MD, Family Medicine at St. Elizabeth Cold Spring Primary Care, explains, “The flu vaccine is a dead virus, it is not live. Therefore, you can’t get the flu from the vaccine. If you are allergic to eggs, you can react to some vaccines, but there are egg-free, preservative-free vaccinations available.”
- You can get the flu vaccine anytime during flu season. Influenza season in the United States is from October until April. The peak of the season starts in December. Flu vaccination rates drop significantly after November, that’s why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has dubbed the week of Dec. 4-10, “National Influenza Vaccination Week” to remind people to get their annual vaccination. Dr. Tracy cautions to get it before the holidays when you are around big groups of people where germs spread easily. It takes two weeks after receiving the shot for the vaccine to be fully effective.
- Even if you’re healthy, the flu vaccine is necessary. The vaccination can prevent the flu or reduce the severity of the illness. Also, the flu vaccine not only protects you but protects those around you. If you have contact with people at risk for complications from the flu, including the elderly, pregnant women, young children, and those with any pre-existing health conditions you are putting their health at risk if you don’t get the vaccine. Flu complications can result in pneumonia, or exacerbate existing health conditions, which can lead to hospitalization or death.
- You need the vaccine every year. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine begins to lessen after six months. More importantly, every year the Center for Disease Control (CDC) creates vaccines for flu strains likely to emerge that year. In 2018, the vaccine protects against four different strains of flu. Dr. Tracy adds, “Even if the flu season produced a strain of flu not covered in the vaccine, it would boost your immune system.”
- You still need the shot if you are pregnant. If you are pregnant, you are at a higher risk for complications from the flu. You can get a flu shot at any time, during any trimester, while pregnant. There are a lot of studies about the safety and benefits of getting a flu shot during pregnancy. In addition, being vaccinated while pregnant protects the baby from the flu for several months after birth. This is important because babies cannot get the flu shot until they are six months old.
“Since 2010, the CDC has recommended everyone six months of age or older should get the flu vaccine every season,” Dr. Tracy explains. “I am very passionate about vaccines because I feel it is my job to keep you healthy, not treat you when you are sick. Vaccines are the number one thing I can do to keep you healthy.”
Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician today to receive your flu vaccine. If you are already a patient with a St. Elizabeth Physicians primary care provider, you can schedule an appointment for a vaccine on MyChart. You can also schedule an eVisit with your provider on my chart if you have flu-like symptoms, saving yourself a trip to the office.