It’s that time of year; flu season is upon us. That means flu shots.
Maybe you’re ready to go and are rushing to Target because they’re offering discounts to shoppers who get the flu shot as an incentive. Great! You know the importance of getting the flu shot, not just for yourself but for your loved ones, too.
But maybe you’re not so ready. Maybe you’ve heard something that’s swayed your opinion this year. Something that scared you or made you think twice. We get it. Every year rumors circulate about getting vaccinated, from the outlandish to the plausible. And it’s hard to know what’s true and what’s not, especially in this age of lightning fast communications.
Don’t let misinformation leave you unprotected from the flu. Here are five flu shot myths debunked, and resources to help you understand the flu vaccine this season.
Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
Myth: You don’t need to get vaccinated every year:
Truth: You need a flu shot every year because the strain changes, and a new vaccine is used annually to fight the most current influenza virus. Last year’s vaccine will not protect you from this year’s flu.
A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and sometimes updated to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.
Myth: September is too early to get a flu shot.
Truth: Not at all. Flu vaccinations actually begin as early as September, or as soon as the vaccine is available. Protection itself doesn’t begin until about two weeks after you receive your flu shot, and lasts through flu season (generally October through May). So be sure to get yours today!
Flu vaccination should begin soon after vaccine becomes available, ideally by October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue to be offered throughout the flu season, even in January or later. While seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, during most seasons influenza activity peaks in January or later. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is best that people get vaccinated so they are protected before influenza begins spreading in their community.
Myth: The flu isn’t a serious disease.
Truth: If you or a family member contracts the flu (different from the common cold), the experience can be pretty miserable for all parties involved, and sometimes even catastrophic. Depending on the year, between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths are attributed to influenza.
These risks are especially true for people already at risk with conditions like asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease, those who are pregnant, over 65 years old, or for those caring for someone with any of these conditions. We really can’t stress the importance of prevention by getting your flu shot.
Myth: It doesn’t really matter if I get vaccinated. I’m just one person.
Truth: The key to preventing a significant outbreak is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Over the last few flu seasons, less than half of those who should have been vaccinated actually received the flu shot. Anyone over the age of 6 months is encouraged to receive the flu shot.
There’s more information for our members here, as well as details about how you and your loved ones can get vaccinated this year, especially now that you know what’s true about the flu!