After last year’s particularly awful flu season — one of the worst on record — you have probably heard that a flu shot is the most effective method to protect yourself against getting the virus.  According to the Mayo Clinic, “this year’s annual flu shot will offer protection against three or four of the influenza viruses expected to be in circulation this flu season. A high-dose flu vaccine also will be available for adults age 65 and older.” You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in our community. Typically, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so it’s best to get vaccinated early. The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October.

Can you get the flu even if you had a flu shot?

Technically, yes.  The flu shot doesn’t actually contain the live flu viruses, rather it is has inactivated viruses or particles that look a lot like the flu to your immune system. These ingredients prompt your body to develop new antibodies that will protect you if you do come in contact with the actual flu virus.  Unfortunately, the flu virus is constantly changing, and the vaccine is developed about six months before the season officially starts.  That being said, there is a certain element of guesswork that scientists must take to predict which strain will be the most prevalent each season.  When the predictions are correct and the vaccine is a good match to circulating viruses, it reduces your risk of getting the flu somewhere between 40 – 60%.  However, if you have a flu shot and get the flu, the vaccine lowers the severity of symptoms and possible complications.

Don’t Believe These Flu Shot Myths:

  1. If you got a flu shot last year, you don’t need one this year.
    There are actually two reasons this one is a myth. Since the shot formulation changes every year, last year’s shot won’t apply to this year’s current strain of flu.  Secondly, the immunity you gained from it has dissipated.
  2. The vaccination itself gives you the flu.
    Since the virus portion of the vaccine is extremely weakened, it’s not strong enough to actually trigger the flu. However, what it does do is stimulate the production of flu antibodies in your immune system.
  3. If you’re already healthy, you don’t need a flu shot.
    Healthy people are only healthy until they get the flu. Granted, children aged six months to 19 years, adults over 49 years, and pregnant women are the recommended demographics for immunization, but reducing your flu risk is an opportunity everyone should take.
  4. Flu shots cause strokes, narcolepsy, heart attacks, and Alzheimer’s disease.
    This is one of the newer flu shot myths, but they still very prevalent, nonetheless. Researchers have yet to find a link between getting vaccinated and any of these medical conditions. In fact, the flu shot actually reduces the risk of cardiovascular-related health problems.