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Don’t Let This Flu Myth Scare You From Your Yearly Vaccine

By Blue Cross NC | January 23, 2015 | Health Conditions

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A Mother’s Advice

I get my flu shot every year. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, since my mother first insisted I needed one despite my protests that I hated needles. Now, decades later, I still get one, but now I go willingly. Mostly because I don’t want to be laid up with the flu for a week or more. Or to end up in the hospital… or dead.

It’s hard to believe, but seasonal influenza results in more than 200,000 hospitalizations and more than 36,000 deaths annually. In North Carolina, more than 100 people have lost their lives already this year.

In spite of those staggering numbers, many people believe flu shots are no longer effective or that they may, in fact, give you the flu.

Neither of these flu myths are true. Back in September, Allison Bonner wrote No Flu For You: 5 Flu Shot Myths Debunked, which tackled the most common flu shot myths, including whether the flu shot can give you the flu. But I had a question that wasn’t addressed:

The New Myth

I know that the most common strain of influenza is H1N1, but that one of the major issues with the flu is that it can mutate. So, the vaccine covers some of the most common strains, but not new mutations. I wondered why you should still bother with a vaccine this year, considering that there is a particularly virulent strain of the virus that the flu shot doesn’t cover, H3N2. And that’s the one a lot of people are catching.

So I reached out to one of our experts, Dr. Brian Caveney, who is the medical director who oversees all of BCBSNC’s wellness programs and is Board-certified in preventive medicine. He had these points to make:

  • The flu season peaks between December and February but can last as late as May, so there’s still a lot of flu season to go.
  • While roughly half of the flu strains being tested are the mutated strain, half are strains that are covered by the flu shot, like H1N1, so you’re still protecting yourself from much of the risk.
  • The flu shot may not prevent H3N2, it still boosts your antibodies and can help lessen its effects and shorten your recovery time.
  • There is currently a shortage on TamiFlu, the primary treatment hospitals use on influenza, so preventing the flu or lessening its effects is even more important.

Where to Get Vaccinated

You can get vaccinated at the Doctor’s office, a walk-in clinic, or at a pharmacy. If you’re a customer, to find in-network pharmacists, use our Find a doctor tool and under the Advanced Search section search for “Pharmacist (Flu & Other Limited Injections)” under Convenience Care.

To find a participating CVS MinuteClinic, select “Convenience Care Center” under Advanced Search.

Please help prevent the spread of the flu during this high risk period by getting a flu shot for every member of your family! This is especially important for children, pregnant women, and those who have compromised immune systems. If you have any remaining questions or concerns, please visit our FAQ or post in the comments section.