Flu Immunization: Myths & Facts
According to the CDC, getting vaccinated in July or August is too early, especially for older people, because of the likelihood of reduced protection against flu infection later in the flu season. September and October are good times to get vaccinated. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue, even in January or later.
Here are common myths about the flu.
Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine.
The flu shot is made from an inactivated virus that can’t transmit infection. So people who get sick after
receiving a flu vaccination were going to get sick anyway. It takes a week or two to get protection from the
vaccine. But people assume that because they got sick after getting the vaccine, the flu shot caused their
Myth: You don’t need to get a flu shot every year.
The influenza virus changes (mutates) each year. So getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak.
Myth: The flu shot doesn’t work.
There can be some truth to this myth, as the flu vaccine is never 100% effective. However, a new high-dose
vaccine is available for the elderly that is reportedly 24 percent more effective than the standard vaccine.
Designed specifically for those over 65, the high-dose vaccine contains 4 times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot. For seniors, who have weakened immune system responses after vaccination, this high dose will help increase antibody production.
Myth: A flu shot isn’t necessary because the flu isn’t that dangerous.
While the flu may cause younger people to miss work or school for a week, for seniors it can often have deadly consequences. Aging causes the immune system to weaken and decreases the ability to recuperate, meaning seniors can end up hospitalized from flu-related complications, including pneumonia. According to the CDC, between 80 and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths occur in those over 65, as well as 50 to 70 percent of hospitalizations.
Myth: Getting the flu vaccination is all you need to do to protect yourself from the flu.
There are a number of steps you can take to protect yourself during flu season besides vaccination. Avoid
contact with people who have the flu, wash your hands frequently, and consider taking anti-viral medications if you were exposed to the flu before being vaccinated. The flu is a good example of how medical myths can get in the way of good medical care. When it’s flu season, take the necessary steps to stay healthy. That includes separating fact from myth.