Four Common Misconceptions About the Flu Vaccine
The flu is one of life’s great miseries. Up until the development of the vaccine, it was not uncommon for this annual menace to cause thousands of deaths each year.
Today, we’re a lot luckier. We have the flu vaccine.
Unfortunately, only about half of all those eligible will get it in any given year. This is despite the fact that the vaccine not only helps vastly reduce the possibility of dying from the flu but also helps reduce the risk of life-threatening side effects. There are many reasons that moms and dads choose not to get themselves or their kids a shot.
Here are some of the most common misconceptions about the flu vaccine.
You can get the flu from the vaccine
This is perhaps the single most common misconception about the vaccine. You cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The flu shot is a killed virus. It cannot give you the flu.
If you get the shot, you may feel poorly for a few days. That often means that the vaccine is helping your body produce the antibodies it needs to ward off the illness.
Keep in mind that the flu shot will take about two weeks to become effective. In the meantime, you are vulnerable to the flu. So, you can get the shot and then get the flu immediately afterward. This is why experts recommend that you consider getting a flu shot early in the flu season before cases start to become more widespread.
Pregnant and postpartum women should not get the vaccine
Pregnancy is a vulnerable time in your life. You want everything to go right with your pregnancy. This is why the vaccine can be particularly important when you’re pregnant.
During your pregnancy, your immune system may experience varied changes that make you more vulnerable to illness. Not only are you more vulnerable to the flu, you’re also more likely to get sicker if you get it.
Get the shot when pregnant and you’ll have a healthier pregnancy. One of the best things about getting the vaccine is that you’ll also protect your baby. Pregnant women develop antibodies to the flu after the shot. These antibodies are passed on to the baby during the pregnancy. Once out of the womb, your flu shot will offer your darling newborn a measure of protection against the disease.
The flu is harmless
That cold you had last year? A few days of sneezing and a runny nose? It probably wasn’t the flu.
While the flu can be mild for many people, this is not always the case. Even in healthy people, the flu can be hellish. You might spend a week or so in bed with a high fever, body aches, a hacking cough and other problems. You can continue to feel horrible for weeks. When I had the flu as a teen, I was in bed for over a week with a raging fever. It was nearly a month before I felt myself again.
In some cases, the flu can also cause terrible complications. Some people can wind up with heart problems or even a stroke while battling the flu. Babies and the elderly may be in special danger from agonizing side effects. Each year, thousands of people literally die from the flu. The shot is one of the best ways to help reduce your risks of catching it.
The vaccine does not work
The flu vaccine is not perfect. Each year a group of experts at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices decides which strains of the flu virus go into the shot for the upcoming flu season.
Members take into account data from all over the world. Three or four strains are put into the vaccine. The problem? There are other strains of the flu virus that can be circulating in any given community during the flu season. Your flu vaccine may not cover all of them.
However, the vaccine will still provide a measure of protection against the disease for the season. Even if you get sick, you’re probably not going to wind up in the ICU. Your vaccinated kids won’t need to spend days in the hospital with intravenous line and an oxygen tank.
The bottom line? The shot is imperfect. But it’s the best measure of protection we have against a nasty disease that still kills.
To learn more about getting a flu shot in your area, check VaccineFinder.org.
Stacy Mintzer Herlihy is a freelance writer and co-author of “Your Baby’s Best Shot: Why Vaccines are Safe and Save Lives,” (Rowman & Littlefield paperback 2016). Currently at work on a second book about teenagers and smoking, Ms. Herlihy lives in New Jersey with her family and two very spoiled mush cats.