I think it’s time to set the record straight once and for all. I’ve heard this excuse one too many times (often from my own husband) and with flu season just around the corner, there is no more time to let this little misnomer continue to churn through the rumor mill. Sixty-two percent of people who refuse the flu vaccine fear immunization could cause them to contract the illness, but it’s time to spread the word that the flu shot cannot give you the flu! I know, I know, you’ve heard it over and over from your friend, your spouse, or even the lady down the street who fell ill shortly after being immunized, but I’m here to tell you that vaccination is not the culprit of their ailments. While the influenza (flu) shot does contain the actual flu virus, those viruses are killed during the manufacturing process meaning they can’t give you the flu, plain and simple. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the vaccine is double checked in randomized, blinded studies, to make sure no live virus survives. Each batch of flu vaccine is tested to make sure they are safe.
I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, then why did I (or my friend, cousin, etc.) get the flu the last time I got a flu shot? There are actually a few potential reasons. One possibility is the individual came into contact with an influenza virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period that it takes the body to gain protection after vaccination. Exposure during this time period can result in a person becoming ill with the flu before protection has time to take effect. Still not convinced? People may also become ill from non-flu viruses, such as rhinovirus, that cause flu-like symptoms. What isthought to be the flu, may not be the flu at all. Another explanation? There are many different influenza viruses that circulate, but vaccines cannot carry protection from all of them. If a person is exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses included in the vaccine there may not be protection from that specific strain. Still not convinced? A very small number of people who receive a flu vaccine can remain unprotected despite vaccination, giving yet another explanation for developing the flu after the shot. This typically occurs in people with compromised immune systems and the elderly. But don’t be discouraged; there is still benefit to being immunized. Even if an immunized person contracts the flu, it is typically a milder case with a decreased risk of complications.
I don’t know about you, but I’m busy enough as it is and spending a week or more dealing with fevers, coughs, body aches (the list goes on) and possibly developing pneumonia as a result of the flu is not on my to do list! Call your doctor or head to your nearest pharmacy and get vaccinated! Spread the word about the importance of protecting yourself, your family, and those around you against this vaccine-preventable disease and help us put this dirty little flu myth to rest once and for all!