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Get Real Information on the Annual Influenza Vaccine

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4 Common Myths About the Flu Shot

By Jennifer Footit-Tank, quality care coordinator at Network Health

Commonly called “the flu,” influenza has a season that starts as early as mid-August, peaks between December and February and typically ends in May.

This respiratory disease has symptoms that include fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, cough, sore throat and stuffy nose. Symptoms usually last for about a week and most people can recover at home. For others, however, the flu can lead to hospitalization or become life-threatening. 

Anyone can get the flu but most at risk are children, women who are pregnant, the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions.

How Does the Flu Spread?

The flu spreads from person to person by droplets in the air. These infectious droplets are expelled when an infected person sneezes, coughs or exhales. The flu can also be spread by an infected person laughing or talking, making it essential to limit contact with others when sick.

As with most preventable diseases, being proactive is the best protection. Receiving the flu vaccine before the season peaks is doing your part to take care of your health, prevent a major outbreak that can threaten the lives of those with compromised immune systems and those who may be unable to receive the vaccine for medical reasons.

The (CDC) recommends you receive your vaccine by the end of October. Depending on your health plan and your workplace, there is a good chance the flu vaccine might be available at no- or limited-cost, so check with both. 

Typical locations to get vaccinated include pharmacies, your personal doctor’s office or, in some cases, your workplace.

Flu Shot Myths

As with other vaccines, the flu vaccine has its own collection of debunked myths that still circulate. Here are some of the most popular myths you may have heard.

The flu vaccine can give you the flu

The flu vaccine is an inactivated (dead) virus that cannot give you the flu.

What the flu vaccine does, however, is jump-start your immune system into preparing for exposure to the contagious seasonal flu. Since the viral components in the vaccine have already been killed, the flu shot cannot give you the flu.

Part of the reason this myth persists is due to an achy or tired feeling that some people experience after receiving the vaccine. These symptoms are the body’s normal immune response of building up a resistance to the flu. These feelings tend to pass within one to two days.

Those who do get sick after receiving the flu vaccine are almost always ill because they were exposed to another virus or bacteria prior to the vaccine. 

I don’t have to get the flu vaccine every year

Some vaccines, like Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP), only need to be received every few years. Medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting the flu shot every year to anybody six years or older because flu viruses change from year to year making last year’s flu shot ineffective by the time the new flu strain begins. The immune system needs the vaccine to develop antibodies for the upcoming flu season.

I’ll get my flu shot later in the season, so it lasts longer

This may seem like a smart idea but you’re doing yourself more harm than good.

It usually takes two weeks after receiving the vaccine to reach peak immunity, so the earlier in the flu season you receive the flu vaccine, the better. The longer you wait to get vaccinated, the higher your risk of contracting the virus.

If for some reason you cannot get a flu shot until later into the season, the vaccine will still be beneficial because it can protect you for the remainder of the flu season.

Healthy people do not need to get vaccinated

Among the more dangerous myths that circulate about the flu vaccine, healthy people do need to and should get vaccinated against the seasonal flu.

Anyone is susceptible to catching the flu and passing the virus onto others who may not be as healthy and have a greater risk of developing complications related to influenza. Although a healthy person may not experience the same severity of symptoms that a less-healthy person might, they can still spread it to vulnerable members of the population like children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with chronic illness, for whom the virus can be potentially life-threatening.

Make the Holiday Season as Healthy as Possible with the Flu Vaccine

Getting the flu shot every autumn is a great step towards taking care of yourself and those around you.  Discuss any questions you have regarding the flu vaccine with your primary care provider. Contact your Network Health Member Experience Representative with any benefit questions.

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