It’s that time of year again: the time when no one can stop talking about flu shots. Should you get a flu shot? Will it give you the flu? Will you have a bad reaction? These are common questions that start buzzing around as the shot becomes available. Here are some flu shot myths and facts to help you decide whether getting vaccinated is the best choice for you and your family.
Facts about the flu shot:
- It can help prevent the flu. When the flu vaccine matches the strain with which you come into contact, getting the shot can reduce your risk of catching the flu by 40 to 60 percent.
- Data doesn’t always guess the strain correctly. Each year, the flu vaccine is based on the strains deemed most likely to spread and cause illness. There are several groups dedicated to researching this, but they sometimes guess incorrectly.
- If you or your children catch the flu, your symptoms may be milder. This is especially important for infants, senior citizens, and others with weakened immune systems.
- You can still get the flu—without a reduction in symptoms—after getting the flu shot. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to take full effect. If you’re exposed to the flu virus shortly before or during that period, you might catch the flu. This is the reason experts suggest getting vaccinated early, before flu activity picks up.
- You need to get a flu shot every year. The flu virus and shots change each year. Additionally, our antibodies to protect against the flu decline with time. For the best protection, you should get vaccinated each year. (Luckily, you only need one shot per year. If you get vaccinated in August, that vaccine will protect you for the entire flu season.)
Myths about the flu shot:
- The flu shot will give you the flu. Not so. The vaccine is created with an inactive virus or a single gene from the virus. Neither of these can cause the flu. If you develop flu-like symptoms after getting the shot, it is because you were exposed to the flu virus before the antibodies built up in your system.
- Getting the flu is better than risking the vaccine. Nope. The flu can cause serious complications—and it can be fatal for infants, senior citizens, and others with weakened immune systems. Even if you get the flu and recover, you risk passing the virus on.
Not only does getting the vaccine protect you from flu, it protects those around you!
The decision to get a flu shot is ultimately up to you and your family. But if you have any questions, you can contact a nurse at the UPMC MyHealth 24/7 Nurse Line at 1-866-918-1591 (TTY: 711).
UPMC Health Plan members can get their flu shots for free! Learn more by checking out our flu shot resource guide.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019, August 15. Influenza (Flu) Vaccine Safety. Retrieved Aug. 23, 2019, from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinesafety.htm.
Healthline. 2019. What are the Pros and Cons of the Flu Shot? Retrieved Aug. 23, 2019, from Healthline: www.healthline.com/health/flu-shot-pros-and-cons#benefits.