Flu Shot Myths

March 6, 2018 by: Daniel McGee, MD Article Tags: ,

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges a yearly flu vaccination for adults and children as young as 6 months old. The flu is most dangerous for people over age 65, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma or heart disease. The CDC reports that, on average, the flu kills about 24,000 Americans each year, including about 100 children.

In spite of the CDC’s recommendations, many Americans simply refuse to get a flu shot. The biggest misconception about the flu shot is that “The flu shot will give me the flu” – which simply is not true.  Some people will experience muscle soreness and a low-grade fever, but those symptoms are not the flu.

Here are eight common flu myths:
1. Myth: “I don’t need the flu shot, I got one last year.”  Every year the influenza viruses mutate, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.  That’s why the flu shot is reformulated every year.

2. Myth: “It didn’t work for me last year, I still got the flu.”  Sometimes the flu shot is not the best match because sometimes the virus mutates so much that the vaccine hasn’t kept up.  Or, the illness that the person had was not true influenza, just another virus.

3. Myth: “It’s too early/late to get the shot.”  The CDC recommends getting the flu shot as soon as it is available, preferably before October, although some scientists suggest that the elderly put off the shot until October because their immune systems are not as robust. Even if you’ve put off the shot, January is still not too late to get it if influenza is active in your community.

4. Myth: “My child is too young to get the flu shot.”  The CDC and AAP recommend that anyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year.

5. Myth: “My child only needs one shot.”  Children up to 8 years of age will need two doses of the flu vaccine.

6. Myth: “I can just get the nasal vaccine and avoid the shot.”  The nasal flu vaccine is not recommended for the 2016-2017 flu season.

7. Myth: “I already had the flu, I don’t need the shot this year.”  Are you sure it was the flu and not some other virus?  In addition, there are multiple strains of influenza circulating every year; getting one strain doesn’t protect you from the others.

8. Myth: “My child can’t receive the flu vaccine because he’s allergic to eggs.”  Recent studies have shown that there is no significant risk of an allergic reaction after receiving the flu vaccine for children who have egg allergies.

Daniel McGee

Daniel McGee, MD

Dr. McGee is a Pediatric Hospitalist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. A graduate of Loyola University, he received his Medical Degree from Rush Medical College in Chicago. After completing his residency in Grand Rapids, Dr. McGee served as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Public Health Service in Oklahoma. He is the former Medical Director of the Blodgett Pediatric Clinic, which, prior to its closing, had the highest immunization rate of any clinic surveyed in Michigan. He is a board certified pediatrician, a Fellow in the American Academy of Pediatrics, and an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Human Development at Michigan State University.