Flu Shot Importance, Misconceptions and Shortcomings
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) work in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration to ensure that the correct flu strain is targeted with widely available vaccines that are held to the highest safety standards. Despite the massive amount of work that goes into the vaccines every year, there are still misconceptions and questions surrounding why you should get the vaccine and if it will actually work.
Why Is The Flu Shot Important?
Influenza (commonly referred to as the flu) is highly contagious and can lead to serious illnesses and other health issues, such as pneumonia, dehydration, and ear and sinus infections. An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over 6 months old.
Some people face increased risks of serious flu-related complications. These people include, but are not limited to:
- Pregnant women
- Young children
- Older people
- People with chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and heart disease
Due to the increased risk of complications, it’s especially important for these groups of people to receive their annual flu shot.
Flu Vaccine Misconceptions
There are misconceptions surrounding the flu vaccine, specifically that it is either not safe, or results in the recipient contracting the flu. These misconceptions, however, are not based in fact. Extensive research conducted by the Center for Disease Control in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration ensure that flu vaccines are held to the highest safety standards, and that they are completely safe for nearly all recipients.
Although the flu vaccine cannot cause the recipient to contract the flu, the shot itself can cause some mild side effects for some people. These side effects typically include:
- Soreness around the injection site
- Redness and/or swelling around the injection site
- Muscle aches
These side effects are typically minor, last no more than a day or two, and can pale in comparison to contracting the flu itself.
Influenza can be serious and anyone (even healthy, active kids, teens, and adults) can contract it and experience serious complications. Even if an individual bounces back quickly, they run a great risk of infecting others. Even a person who contracts the flu, but has no symptoms can spread the virus and infect others.
Getting Vaccinated But Still Getting Sick
Perhaps the best way to help prevent yourself from contracting the flu is to get vaccinated before the flu bug begins to spread. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu, so the sooner you get vaccinated, the more likely it is that you will be protected when flu begins to circulate in your area.
When you do get a flu vaccine, you might still get flu-like illnesses. For example, you might be exposed to viruses other than the flu virus. Unfortunately, the flu vaccine only prevents illnesses caused by flu viruses; it can’t protect against other viruses that may cause symptoms similar to flu, like the common cold.
There are other ways that you may also become sick after receiving your vaccination.
You may have been exposed to the flu virus after receiving your flu shot, but before you’ve had time to develop the proper antibodies
You may have been exposed to an influenza virus that was very different from the viruses included in that year’s vaccine (the flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during the upcoming season; however, other flu viruses could be circulating)
Unfortunately, some people may still contract the flu despite receiving the correct vaccination. How well the flu vaccine works can vary from season-to-season and from person-to-person. If you do become sick with the same strand of influenza that you received a vaccination against, you may experience milder symptoms than if you were not vaccinated.
While receiving a flu shot might cause mild irritation for a day or so, it’s nothing compared to the discomfort and suffering that can be caused by the flu. Receiving the vaccine can greatly reduce your chances of becoming ill, becoming hospitalized, and can prevent further spreading of the virus.
The pros of the shot far outweigh any cons.
Some key points to keep in mind during this, and future flu seasons:
The flu virus is constantly changing, and as such, you need to receive a flu vaccine every year as vaccines may change year-to-year
An individual becomes less immune to the flu vaccine over time, so annual vaccination and immunization is recommended to ensure proper protection
For more information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).