Flu shot fact and fiction

Busting flu shot myths

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - MinuteClinic Nurse Practitioner Annie Krzan joined us on WECT News First at Four to dispel common myths about the flu vaccine.

Krzan said the time to get the flu shot is right now, because experts have seen an early start to flu season with cases reported in the North Carolina mountains and surrounding areas in Virginia and Kentucky.

The first myth is: The Flu Shot is not effective.

Kruzan’s take: That’s definitely a myth. The annual seasonal flu vaccine, according to the CDC, remains the number one way to prevent getting the flu. There are some years when it’s been found to be more effective than others based on the CDC’s ability to match expected strains of the flu, but overall, year after years, it’s proved to be extremely effective. Last year, the CDC estimates that there were more than 61,000 flu-related deaths in the United States, so you want to do everything you can to prevent getting the flu and potentially spreading it to others in your family, workplace or circle of friends. And it’s available at no cost through all insurance plans, so why take the risk of not getting the shot? You can get vaccinated by your primary care provider or come see us any CVS MinuteClinic or pharmacy location in the Carolinas.

Myth 2: The seasonal flu shot gives you the flu.

Kruzan: This is probably the biggest myth of all. The flu shot is made from dead, inactivated viruses, so it is impossible to get the flu from a flu shot. If you do get the flu immediately following a flu shot, it’s because you came in contact with the virus before you received the shot and it built up your immunity to the flu, which can take two weeks to fully develop. This is why it’s important for anyone six months or older to get the shot in September or October before the flu virus begins to spread.

Myth 3: The flu vaccine may cause harmful side effects.

Kruzan: This one is closely related to #2. Again, it’s false but there are a few rare exceptions. Those would be anyone who has previously had an allergic reaction to a flu shot or is known to be allergic to ingredients in a flu shot including gelatin or antibiotics. That said, it IS possible the flu vaccine may trigger an immune response from your body that causes mild side effects. The symptoms could include soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the injection, a low grade fever or aches. These should last no more than 24 to 36 hours and typically don’t occur at all.

Myth 4: If you got the vaccine last year, it is still effective this year.

Kruzan: Not true. There are several flu viruses, and they are constantly changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Even when the vaccine doesn’t exactly match one of the viruses, it still provides some protection. Some day researchers may achieve universal, 1-shot vaccine protection. But for now, this should be on your annual fall checklist.

Myth 5: Natural immunity and a healthy lifestyle is better than immunity from vaccines.

Those who eat a balanced diet, exercise and practice good hygiene certainly can reduce their chances of getting the flu, but it's NOT a substitute for the annual, seasonal flu vaccine. The flu virus is very contagious and can spread from person to person through droplets in the air or can live on surfaces we commonly touch. You may be super healthy, but you're not invincible. The flu virus can strike anyone. Most vulnerable are senior citizens, pregnant mothers and others with weakened immunity. So don't just think of yourself because you can spread the flu to others around you who might develop a severe case.

Copyright 2019 WECT. All rights reserved.