The Flu Shot: Myths vs Facts

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Mint Presents… is a new series of articles where we partner with pharmacy professionals to discuss new trends, break down common misconceptions and gain perspective on medicine and healthcare.

The flu season will soon be just around the corner, and you can expect to hear plenty of news about the flu shots. Healthcare professionals all over the country are recommending their patients to get immunized. However, it’s not surprising for people to be worried about the process. With the rumours about the risk and harms, you might find yourself discouraged to get vaccinated.

Today, we will spend some time busting these myths to help you become informed about the truth of flu shots.

Myth #1: Can the vaccine give you the flu?

No, the inactivated flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. These vaccines contain dead viruses which are incapable of starting an infection. They happen to be perfect for helping your body build immunity without facing the risk of getting sick. Some people may experience redness and swelling at the injection site. Fortunately, these symptoms tend to be mild and usually resolves in a few days.

Myth #2: Why do I need the flu shot every year?

The flu strain changes all the time. Every February, members of the World Health Organizations (WHO) gather together to assess international infection data and determine which strains are required to be covered. This can be difficult since they are predicting the strains in February to
have enough time to make the vaccines for October. Furthermore, viruses can mutate over time, making some vaccinations less effective than anticipated. Does this mean the vaccine is useless? No, the flu shot is our best defence against the disease. Not only are you minimizing your risk of getting sick, but you are also protecting vulnerable people (e.g. infants, elderly, immunocompromised) from being exposed to the virus.

Myth #3: I had the flu shot last year, but I still got sick within the next few days!

Remember, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. However, that doesn’t mean it will protect you from all respiratory infections. Many respiratory illnesses present similar symptoms such as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) or parainfluenza.

Myth #4: The flu isn’t deadly.

Although most people will recover from the flu, it doesn’t mean it’s a minor illness. Over 12,000 people are hospitalized with influenza every year, with many developing complications such as pneumonia or respiratory distress. By being immunized, you effectively lower your chance of catching the flu.

Myth #5: Pregnant mothers should avoid the vaccine.

Contrary to popular belief, vaccinations can reduce the mother’s risk of developing respiratory infections by 50%! Recall that the vaccine is made of inactivated virus, making it safe during all trimesters of pregnancy. In addition, antibodies developed by mom can protect the infant several months after birth. With this in mind, it’s recommended for pregnant mothers to see their healthcare team for immunization.

The flu vaccine is one of the greatest tools for preventing influenza. Flu campaigns frequently start in the fall, free for Alberta citizens. All you need to do is bring your health care card to any flu clinic to get the process done!

If you found this article enjoyable, and are interested in more great health content like our Mint Presents… series, subscribe to receive email updates from our Health Resources library. If you have any questions or concerns about pregnancy and new mom health, feel free to reach out to your local Mint Health+Drugs or reach out through Instagram or Facebook.