Flu vaccine myths: What’s true, what’s not

There’s an easy fix for the muscle aches, high fevers, sore throats, stuffy noses and headaches the flu causes: it’s the flu shot. While the shot has been around for many years, some people still don’t take advantage of it and suffer nasty flu symptoms.

Now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s especially important to make sure you get your flu shot because underlying conditions can increase your risk for infection. Vaccines are an effective way to protect you from other serious diseases, including the flu.

READ MORE: Don’t neglect your immunizations during the pandemic

There’s no question the flu shot is the best defense against the flu, but there’s a lot of confusing information out there. Here are five common myths about the flu vaccine explained.

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Myth #1: The flu shot gives you the flu.

  • You can’t get the flu from the flu shot. But it takes about two weeks for the shot to start working in your body, so you may still catch the flu after you have the shot.
  • While most people feel fine after the shot, some may develop a mild fever or feel tired for a day or two. After you receive the shot, your body works to protect you against the virus, which can make you feel tired.

Myth #2: The flu shot doesn’t work.

  • Is it still possible to get the flu after you get the flu shot? Yes. Is it much less likely to happen? Yes.
  • The flu shot is not 100 percent effective, but it does greatly lower your risk of getting the flu.
  • There are many different types of the flu virus. The shot doesn’t protect you against all of them. Each year, the World Health Organization identifies three or four types to include in the flu shot. These are the types most likely to be spread for that year’s flu season.

Myth #3: You don’t need the flu shot if you had it last year.

  • Because the flu virus changes, your body needs the vaccine each year to protect you against each year’s most common flu type.

Myth #4: If you’re a healthy, young adult, you don’t need the flu shot.  

  • The flu is most life-threatening for people age 50 and older, pregnant women, children under age 5 and people with a chronic medical condition.
  • However, healthy adults can still become very sick, hospitalized or even die. Each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu.

Myth #5: If you wash your hands, eat healthy and get lots of sleep, you can prevent the flu.

  • These are all important and improve your overall health, but they can’t stop the flu. Germs in the air cause the flu, which means when a sick person coughs or sneezes, those germs in the air can make you sick.

Each year, five to 20 percent of people in the U.S. get the flu. If you want to increase your chance of staying healthy this winter, the flu shot is an easy step to take. Minor discomfort from the shot is much better than a serious illness and the effects that can follow. Getting vaccinated will not only help keep you healthy, but prevent you from getting others sick as well.


By Lauren Parmer, DO, a primary care physician at AAMG Pasadena Primary Care. She can be reached at 443-270-8600.

Originally published Dec. 16, 2015. Last updated Sept. 25, 2020.

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