If you think the flu is like a bad cold, think again. Anyone who has had the virus can tell you that it’s much more severe than a mild case of the sniffles. However, it can be confusing with all the misinformation that floats around this time of year.
Below we break down 4 common myths that many people have about the flu.
Myth #1: The flu isn’t really that bad.
The flu isn’t something that anyone should take lightly. Just consider the fact that there were more than 80,000 flu-related deaths in the United States during the winter of 2017-2018.1 Individuals aged 65 and older accounted for 9 out of 10 of these deaths, but the flu also killed 180 young children and teenagers.2 Despite the dangers, the CDC estimates that only 37% of adults 18 or older were vaccinated for flu during the 2017-2018 flu season–down 6.2 percentage points from the year before.3
Myth #2: You don’t need a flu vaccine every year.
Immune protection from the flu vaccine declines over time, so annual vaccination is critical to provide the best protection. In addition, the strains of flu causing illness can change from year to year. Last year’s flu vaccine may not protect from this year’s flu strains. In fact, multiple strains of the flu circulate every year, and it’s possible to contract different strains of the flu in the same year. To ensure the best protection, it’s best that people get an annual flu vaccine prior to the start of flu season to allow their body’s immune system the time it needs to build up protective antibodies against the virus. Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October or November and can continue to occur as late as May.4
Myth #3: The flu vaccine will give you the flu.
If someone feels sick shortly after receiving a flu vaccine, they may think the vaccine caused them to come down with the illness. However, as outlined by the World Health Organization, the flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus and can’t transmit infection.5 It can take a week or 2 for a vaccine to become effective, so it’s possible to catch the flu right after receiving the flu shot, before your body’s immune system has built up protection from the virus.
There are potential temporary side effects associated with flu vaccine including achiness and fever. These are normal reactions from one’s immune system and should only last a day or 2. If symptoms last longer than a few days, vaccine recipients should check with their health care provider. Severe adverse effects are extremely rare.
Myth #4: You can run out of time to get vaccinated.
The fact is it’s never too far into flu season to get a flu vaccine. The vaccine is available for the public at most retail pharmacies, walk-in clinics, and community health centers, as well as from their health care providers, throughout the fall and winter. The flu vaccine works best when the entire community is vaccinated, so even after people have received their annual flu shot–they might want to encourage their neighbor to get theirs as well!
For those that do come down with the flu or other sicknesses this season, there are resources available to help save money on important medications. Programs like Community Cares Rx offer immediate savings to millions of American families who are uninsured or in need, strengthening communities by giving people an easier path to affordable prescriptions.
- McNeil DG. Over 80,000 Americans Died of Flu Last Winter, Highest Toll in Years. The New York Times. Published October 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/01/health/flu-deaths-vaccine.html?module=inline.
- CDC FluView. Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality. CDC’s website. https://gis.cdc.gov/GRASP/Fluview/PedFluDeath.html
- CDC. Estimates of Flu Vaccination Coverage among Adults. CDC’s website. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1718estimates.htm.
- National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID). Flu Myths & Facts. NFID’s website. https://www.nfid.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/flu-myths-facts-1.pdf
- CDC. What You Need to Know for 2019-20. CDC’s website. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2019-2020.htm
- WHO. 5 myths about the flu vaccine. WHO’s website. https://www.who.int/influenza/spotlight/5-myths-about-the-flu-vaccine