With the number of cases of influenza or “flu” on the rise and the many concerns over the lack of a vaccine for the coronavirus, myths about being vaccinated are on the rise. In fact, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital surveyed 700 parents in 2019 and found more than half of them believed the flu shot could make you sick.
Recently, Dr. Lisa Maragakis, MD, MPH, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Health System and associate professor of medicine for Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine was asked the question, “Can the flu shot make you sick?” According to Dr. Maragakis and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and every other flu expert on the planet—the answer is flat-out no.
“It’s not a live virus vaccine,” says Dr. Maragakis. “It’s a killed or inactivated virus and can’t make you sick.”
So, why do people think the flu shot can make you sick? The truth is, side effects of the flu shot might make you feel a little bit under the weather.
“When you get a vaccine, it’s really triggering your immune system to respond so that it learns how to fight off the virus and can protect you,” says Dr. Maragakis.
That process of activating the immune system can sometimes feel like you’re catching something because you start to feel achy, and your arm might get a little sore. Some people even develop a low-grade fever as the immune system responds to the vaccination—but it’s not a contraction of the flu, she explains.
In addition, there are so many different viruses circulating during the flu season, there’s no guarantee you won’t get sick from something other than the flu.
“A fair number of people get the flu vaccine, and it just so happens that they caught something else around the time and they link the two things together in their minds,” says Dr. Maragakis.
That’s why you also need to be cautious about washing your hands frequently and avoiding touching your face, even after you’ve had the flu vaccine.
Other frequently asked questions include, “Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine?” and “Do I really need a flu vaccine every year?” Flu can be a serious disease, particularly among young children, older adults, and people with certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.
Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalization or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults. Therefore, getting vaccinated is a safer choice than risking illness to obtain immune protection.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone 6 months and older, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. The reason for this is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccination is needed to get the best protection against the flu.
If you are undecided about a flu vaccine or have unanswered questions, it’s not too late to ask questions. Call the health department at 740-342-5179 and ask to speak to our nurses.
The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information about programs or services offered by the Perry County Health Department, contact us at 740-342-5179, visit us online at www.perryhealth.com and follow us on Facebook!
Deborah Raney is a weekly contributor to the Perry County Tribune.