7 Common Myths About the Flu Shot, Debunked

If you have ever gotten sick from the flu, you know just how horrible it can be. From fever chills to feeling as if you’ve been hit by a truck, it truly is not an experience anyone ever wants to have. Fortunately, you can reduce your chances of getting the flu by simply getting vaccinated; not so fortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation floating around about the flu shot, which often dissuades people from getting it.

As of April 2023, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.4 percent of American adults had received a flu shot for the 2022-2023 season, which was slightly higher than the numbers for the 2021-2022 season (45.4 percent). Still, over half of American adults are skipping a free vaccination that protects against a miserable and, for some, life-threatening illness. There are many reasons behind these relatively low numbers, but vaccine misinformation — which became more widespread during the COVID-19 pandemic — is certainly one of them.

The fix? It starts with getting informed about the flu shot and talking to your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. Good news: you’re starting in the right place. To dispel some common myths about the flu shot, Dr. Denise Pate with Medical Offices of Manhattan gave SheKnows some insights to separate fact from fear-mongering fiction.

Myth: The flu is the same as having a bad cold.

The common cold can cause you to feel exhausted and run down, but the flu has all the symptoms of a cold — sneezing, cough, and sore throat — and will put you on bedrest. The CDC notes that most people will recover from the flu in less than two weeks, but developing complications — such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart or brain, or sepsis — could send you to the hospital. In the worst case scenario, these serious complications can also lead to death. Between 2010 and 2020, the CDC estimates that flu resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations yearly.

Myth: Healthy people do not need a flu shot.

Anyone can get the flu, even if you’re healthy. That is why the CDC suggests an annual influenza vaccination for everyone who is six months and older. Furthermore, no matter how healthy you are, once you are infected, you can become contagious. And even if you don’t have any symptoms, you can still spread the virus to others; in fact, a 2009 review found that one in three people with the flu is asymptomatic, and those individuals can still spread the virus to others.

Myth: I don’t need the flu vaccine every year.

The protection offered by the flu vaccine decreases with time (much like the COVID-19 vaccine), making it essential to get vaccinated yearly. In addition to protecting yourself, it also protects those around you. It’s also important to get vaccinated every flu season because the flu virus actually mutates every year, and vaccines are reformulated to protect you from the strains most likely to cause an outbreak during that particular season.

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