There have already been confirmed cases of the flu in Michigan, which is a little ahead of the usual flu season. Usually we start seeing cases in mid-October, not beginning in mid-September. As a pharmacy technician, I thought it important to battle some of those common myths about the flu vaccine. We hear them every year and they seem to get more and more out of control. Once, my husband was told that he would become sterile if he got a flu shot. I’ll admit that this one blew my mind. Much to his coworkers dismay, if this was true, it would only encourage him since we don’t want kids
1. You can get the flu from the flu vaccine – False. The vaccine contains only a piece of a dead virus in order to teach your immune system what it needs to watch out for. It takes two weeks for your immune system to build a defense against the virus. Many times people get the flu within this two week time span and blame it on the vaccine, when really you unfortunately came across the virus before your body had time to mount a defense. If you contract the flu only a couple days after receiving the vaccine, it means you actually already had the virus in your system, it takes a few days before symptoms of the virus show themselves. (Incubation period.)
2. The flu vaccine contains mercury – True and False. Confusing? I’ll explain. Multi-dose vials contain thimerosal, which is used as a preservative to protect against contamination inside the vial. Single dose vials do not contain preservatives. In fact, they’re referred to as preservative-free, and you can ask at your pharmacy or doctor’s office which they use.
3. Only very young and very old people need to get the flu vaccine – False. While that age group is more likely to die from the virus, people in the prime age groups are most likely to infect these at-risk age groups. You may survive your bout with the flu, but you’ve more than likely infected various people around you, who in turn, infect more people around them. This why many medical facilities, including the one I work at, require their employees to be vaccinated. We work daily with the young and elderly. We also work daily with sick people. Therefore, the risk of infecting someone is incredibly high.
4. The flu vaccine doesn’t actually work – False. This is usually a response from someone who got the flu either in that two week time span after vaccination we talked about OR they came across a strain that is not in the vaccine. Currently, there are four strains the vaccine protects against. The CDC spends 6 months trying to determine the four most likely strains to produce in the future flu season to protect against, but there are more than four strains. Also, virus’ have the ability to mutate. If one of the four strains in the vaccine mutates, your body may not recognize the enemy.
5. You should not get the flu vaccine if pregnant – False. The CDC recommends that pregnant women of any trimester get their vaccine to protect themselves and their newborn babies. I’ve known many new mothers over the years that won’t let people near their infants if they haven’t had the flu vaccination. This is a move I highly commend mothers for. It’s not worth risking your babies’ life because someone is misinformed.
Most insurance companies cover the flu vaccine 100%. The side effects include, soreness at site of injection and lethargy the day after vaccination. Small prices to pay to not be a carrier of a virus that can kill. You may think I’m being over dramatic but since 2012 the CDC estimates there to have been between 12,000 to 56,000 flu-related deaths.
Still apprehensive? Do your own research. Ask your doctor and pharmacist. Read the CDC website. Background check any websites you may find misleading information on. I see fear-mongering websites toted as fact frequently on Facebook. Don’t fall for their trap.