Besides a few months in the summer when vaccine makers are updating the flu shot, it’s never too late to get vaccinated. You may have put off getting the shot due to rumors about how it can impact your health. Michelle Heine, an infection control manager for UnityPoint Health, debunks five myths about the flu shots.
I shouldn’t get the flu shot because I am pregnant…
“No, you should!” Heine says. “The vaccination will protect mom during and after pregnancy and will also protect the baby after birth.”
The influenza vaccine should be given to all women who are pregnant, considering pregnancy, are in the postpartum period or are breastfeeding during the flu season. Heine says the mother’s immune response (making antibodies to the virus) is passed onto the baby in the final stages of pregnancy and protects newborns too young to get the shot.
“A double win, mom is protected and baby is protected,” Heine says.
Additives in the vaccine are not safe…
Thimerosal is a preservative used in some flu vaccines. It is only used in multi-dose vaccines to prevent germs from contaminating the vaccine. Heine says some people worry thimerosal isn’t safe because it contains mercury.
“Not all types of mercury are the same. Some types of mercury, like mercury in some kinds of fish, stay in the human body and can make people sick. Thimerosal in vaccines is a different kind of mercury. It doesn’t stay in the body and has never been shown to cause health problems,” Heine says.
She adds there is no link between thimerosal and autism.
I am allergic to eggs, so I can’t get the flu shot…
Heine says people with egg allergies are OK to get the flu shot and no longer have to be monitored for 30 minutes after receiving the vaccine. People who have severe egg allergies should be vaccinated in a medical setting and supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.
The flu shot can make me sick…
The flu shot doesn’t cause the influenza virus. Heine says the shot is not a live virus vaccine, and it can’t replicate in the body.
“In the great majority of cases, the only side effect of the flu shot is a sore arm at the injection site. The flu shot can cause mild side effects that are sometimes mistaken for flu. In rare situations, people have reported fever, muscle pain and weakness after getting the flu shot. If experienced at all, these effects usually last one to two days after vaccination and are much less severe than actual flu illness.” Heine says.
There is no way to get the flu if I get a flu shot…
Unfortunately, it is still a possibility to get the flu virus even if you get vaccinated. Heine says the flu vaccine effectiveness for each a person depends on various factors, including the age and health status of the person and the similarity, or “match,” of the viruses used to make the vaccine to those circulating in the community. It is important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people from flu-related complications.
“Remember, when you get immunized, you are not only protecting yourself, you are protecting your family and those people around you that cannot get the shot,” Heine says.
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