Flu Shot Myths: Separating Fact From Fiction

6 excuses for not getting an annual flu shot that just don’t hold up

Person in doctor's office getting vaccinated.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. It seems there’s no shortage of reasons people offer to avoid getting an annual flu shot. (And let’s be realistic, most folks are not exactly eager for a needle poke.)

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But there’s a valid reason why flu shot campaigns ramp up every fall. To put it simply: The vaccine works. It’s a safe and effective way to prevent or limit influenza.

And it’s not hyperbole to call the flu shot lifesaving.

But we understand that there are myths out there about the shot — and that many people naturally worry about vaccines. So, let’s talk about them and separate fact from fiction to put your mind at ease.

Myth #1: The flu shot can give you the flu

This may be the most common misperception out there. So, let’s get straight to the point: The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu virus.

The reason why is simple. Flu vaccines given through a shot in the arm are made either with dead strains of an influenza virus or with only a single protein from a flu virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The nasal spray vaccine includes a live-yet-weakened flu virus. This form of vaccination is more limited than the traditional flu shot and has recommended restrictions.

Bottom line, though: Neither form of vaccination will give you the flu.

Myth #2: You don’t need a flu shot every year

If last year’s shot kept you flu-free, why get another one? What worked then should just keep working, right?

Well, not exactly. For one, “the flu” isn’t a singular entity that never changes. The virus is continually evolving and different strains circulate. (The CDC explains it by using the terms “drift” and “shift.”)

The annual flu vaccines are made specifically for the upcoming season’s expected flu strain. The effectiveness doesn’t carry over from year to year.

Myth #3: Healthy people don’t need a flu shot

Flu shots are only for unhealthy folks who usually get sick, right? And since you eat smart, workout five days a week and can’t remember the last time you had so much as the sniffles, you’re all good.

Well, first of all, kudos for taking such good care of yourself and building a strong foundation for your immune system.

But that doesn’t mean that you can’t get sick. On average, somewhere between 10% and 20% of the U.S. population gets influenza — and there some are very healthy people that will be in that group.

Getting a flu shot lowers your risk of getting the flu by 40% to 60%, according to the CDC.

And even if you do get the flu, vaccination can help reduce its severity of it.

So, if you’re truly focused on your health, getting a flu shot should be at the top of your to-do list.

Myth #4: The flu is just a bad cold

The flu isn’t “just a cold.” It’s a potentially deadly illness.

In the United States, annual deaths connected to influenza ranged from 12,000 to 52,000 between 2010 and 2020, reports the CDC. Yearly hospitalizations from the virus fluctuated between 140,000 and 710,000 over the same timeframe.

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Myth #5: It’s not safe to get a flu shot while pregnant

It’s actually not safe to avoid a flu shot during pregnancy. Given all that your body is going through growing a fetus, pregnancy increases your risk of severe flu complications should you get sick.

Research shows that people who get vaccinated and avoid the flu have healthier pregnancies and are less likely to have a baby with birth defects or other issues.

An added bonus? The flu vaccine doesn’t just offer your fetus immune protection in the uterus. It also provides protection the first several months of your baby’s life after birth, when they’re too young to get vaccinated.

And the CDC recommends that people who are pregnant get a flu shot as opposed to the nasal spray vaccine.

Myth #6: You can’t get a flu shot with an egg allergy

Severe allergic reactions to flu shots are very rare — and researchers found that having an egg allergy does not increase your risk despite most vaccines containing egg protein from the production process.

Still concerned? Well, you’ve got options. There are two vaccines (Flublok® Quadrivalent and Flucelvax® Quadrivalent) manufactured without the use of eggs.

Bottom line?

The CDC recommends that just about everyone age 6 months or older get an annual flu vaccination. (There are a few, rare health-related exceptions.)

So, find a vaccination site today. There really isn’t a good excuse not to.

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