5 Common Myths about the Flu Shot

Written by EVE SHARIFI

The long lines of the flu vaccine clinic hosted by University Health Services can be seen across campus, including Mccombs Business School and the Student Services Building.

As I was waiting in the flu vaccine line, I got bored and became interested in finding out common myths about the vaccine. According to npr.org, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older gets vaccinated annually, except those individuals who have severe allergies to flu vaccine ingredients. The flu vaccine this year will protect against three different flu strains that the World Health Organization predicts will be circulating. The vaccine can either be received as a shot or nasal spray. The nasal spray can be received by kids ages 2-8 and healthy adults up to age 49.

The flu season is typically between December and February, but the CDC recommends that everyone gets vaccinated as soon as the shot becomes available—preferably during the beginning of October, since it takes about two weeks for the body to develop antibodies against the virus.

Here are the top 5 myths about the flu vaccine:

1. You don’t need the flu vaccine this year if you got it last year.

The circulating flu strains change every year and your immunity fades away as the year passes

2. I never get the flu, so I don’t need the shot.

Your immunity to one strain of flu virus during the previous year doesn’t guarantee that you won’t become sick from other strains of the virus. Once contracted, the flu  can cause fever, severe headache, sore throat, and muscle aches for up to two weeks. Don’t risk it.

3. You shouldn’t get the flu vaccine if you have egg allergies.

This is untrue. You can contact your general doctor or allergist if your allergy is severe to learn more about other options. There are several flu shots that are manufactured without eggs, including vaccine Flublok and vaccine Flucelvax.

4. Manufacturing a new flu vaccine every year makes the influenza strain stronger.

Even though it is still unclear how much the yearly flu vaccine contributes to the constantly changing viral strain, its effects are less significant than what is already occurring in our own bodies. The influenza genome is segmented into eight parts and can randomly assort these gene segments within the infected individual. So, other environmental pressures and selective pressures from our immune system contribute to the antigenic drift of flu virus, with or without the flu vaccine.

5. If you haven’t gotten the shot by November, there is no use in getting one afterwards.

The flu season continues until late February and early March, and it only takes your body two weeks after getting the vaccine for your immune system to make the necessary antibodies for protection. So, better late than never.

If you are debating whether you should take a half-hour break between classes next week to get the flu shot, I hope you will decide that it is worth your time. Especially as students in the College of Natural Sciences, we typically can’t afford to miss more than two consecutive classes in our demanding courses. Most of us don’t have our moms close enough anymore to make us hot soup or give us an extra blanket  We have to make the adult decision to take care of ourselves.

References and further reading:

Suicide Prevention Week

The Biology of Ebola

The Biology of Ebola