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September 22, 2015

Common Misconceptions about the Influenza Vaccine

September 22, 2015 | By | No Comments

Influenza season is coming, and we at Union Medical Pharmacy want you to be protected by getting the flu shot. We will let you know when we will begin offering this year’s influenza vaccination within the next few weeks. 

Even though many people get the vaccine annually, there are still people who will not get the vaccine because of several misconceptions and we are here to address some of the most common types of misconceptions.

Misconception 1: I don’t want to get a flu shot because I get the flu after being vaccinated.

Whether you get the intranasal or intramuscular vaccines, it is impossible for you to develop the flu from the actual vaccine. This is because the viral particles are either inactivated (dead) or attenuated (weakened), meaning that they are not capable of making you sick, but are capable of causing your immune system to create “soldiers” against the viral particles. If you become infected with the flu virus, these “soldiers” are able to fight the infection and prevent you from becoming sick.

Many people often view some of the side effects of the vaccine (soreness, redness, swelling where the shot was given, low grade fever, etc) as being a sign that they are developing the flu, but these are just signs that the vaccine is working in your body.

Some people may develop actual symptoms of the flu (fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches, and fatigue) shortly after receiving the flu shot, but this is not due to the vaccine! It takes roughly 2 weeks for you to be fully protected, so if you were infected before the vaccine was effective you would go on to have the flu. This is why it is very important to get vaccinated before the “flu season” actually starts.

Misconception 2: I don’t need to get a flu shot because (1) I got one last year (2) I never get sick. 

It is important to get a new flu shot every year for several reasons. First of all, the viruses that can cause the flu change yearly, meaning that the protection you received from the vaccine last year may not be effective for this new year. Second of all, the protection you received from your flu shot tends tends to last only through the end of the current flu season, meaning that you are no longer protected against those viruses in the next season.

Even if you have never gotten sick, it is important to get a flu shot because of the serious complications that are associated with the infection. The older you are, the greater your chance for these complications, which can include pneumonia, dehydration, ear and sinus infections, hospitalizations, and worsening chronic conditions such as asthma, heart failure, and diabetes.

Misconception 3: I don’t want to get the vaccine because I heard there was mercury in the vaccines.

Thimerosal is a mercury-containing organic compound that used to be added to vaccines as a preservative to help prevent contamination of the vaccine with harmful microbes. However, over the past few years, this preservative has been removed from or reduced to trace amounts in all vaccines. Multiple safety studies have been conducted on these vaccines and all have positive safety results, so there is no need to fear.

Hopefully these have addressed some of the concerns you may have had. If you still have a concern, feel free to contact us!

References:

  1. http://www.fda.gov/BiologicsBloodVaccines/SafetyAvailability/VaccineSafety/UCM096228#t1
  2. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/misconceptions.htm