By Jennifer Rea
We often hear many myths circulating about the flu vaccine. To help debunk some of the most common flu myths, we tracked down Sue Gustafson, Program Director of Infection Prevention at MultiCare Health System, and researched some facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Learn where to find the flu vaccine at www.multicare.org/influenza.
Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
No, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot or the nasal spray, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu shot contains inactivated (killed) flu viruses that cannot cause illness. The nasal spray contains weakened live viruses. The CDC says weakened viruses only cause infection in the cooler temperatures found in the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas in the body where warmer temperatures exist. Some people may, however, experience side effects from the vaccine such as:
These side effects are very uncommon, and should last only one to two days.
After receiving the flu shot, it takes about two weeks for it to become fully effective. If you are exposed to Influenza during this time you could still get the flu – but this is not caused by the vaccine – you just were not fully protected yet.
There are also many, many other viruses that circulate during the flu season that can cause similar symptoms – the flu shot protects you only from Influenza.
Myth: The flu shot is not very effective.
Each year the CDC chooses the three most common strains of the flu virus to use in the flu vaccine. Although this does not protect against every form of the flu it does greatly decrease your chances of contracting the virus. The flu vaccine also increases antibodies within your immune system to help your body fight off this miserable virus. These antibodies can even help decrease the chances of more severe infection of you do get the flu.
Myth: Only certain people need a flu shot.
It is a common misconception that only young children and elderly people need to get their flu shot. Although these groups have a higher risk of getting the flu, they are not the only ones at risk for contracting the flu virus. Take this into account if you are a healthy adult not worried about experiencing the effects of influenza. According to the CDC, if you were to contract the virus, you could spread the virus to others more susceptible to flu-related complications one day before you begin to have symptoms and up to seven days after becoming sick.
Myth: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot
Pregnant women should definitely get the flu shot. Pregnant women are at higher risk for more severe disease and should protect themselves with the vaccine.
Myth: You do not have to get a flu shot every year.
The CDC explains that even if the flu strains in the seasonal vaccine have not been changed from the previous year, the vaccine’s ability to create antibodies and fight off the virus decreases with time. This is why it is recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get a yearly flu shot.
Myth: It is safer to risk getting the flu than to get a flu shot.
The CDC makes it very clear that the flu is a very serious virus that comes with risks of extremely dangerous complications including death. This is especially true for young children, the elderly or those suffering from asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
Where can I get the flu vaccine?
MultiCare Health System now is offering flu vaccines to patients at clinics in King and Pierce counties. Vaccines are available as shots or nasal mist. "High-dose" vaccines, for patients 65 years or older, are also available*.
Flu vaccines are available at the following locations:
* Availability may vary by clinic, based on demand. To ensure availability of the type of vaccine you wish to receive, check with the location you plan to visit in advance.