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Busting Flu Shot Myths

Seasonal influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness that is commonly caused by influenza A or B viruses. Most commonly, the flu is spread from person to person and the virus is most contagious in the first three to four days after the illness begins. The severity of the flu-related illness can range from mild to severe cases, and at times can lead to death.
During the 2018-2019 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 42.9 million people falling ill with influenza, 647,000 influenza-related hospitalizations, and 61,2000 deaths from influenza. While these numbers have not yet been finalized, it is obvious that the flu has a staggering impact. The single most effective method for preventing flu is by receiving an annual influenza vaccine each year. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the influenza vaccine prevented approximately 7 million flu illnesses, 109,900 flu hospitalizations, and 8,000 flu-related deaths. Despite having a clear benefit in preventing flu, the influenza vaccine is still often associated with many misconceptions that can often limit how many people receive the vaccine. Below is a summary of common questions surrounding flu vaccine misconceptions.
• Can the influenza vaccine give you the flu?
Flu vaccines given with a needle do not have the ability to cause flu. Flu vaccines are made in one of two ways. The first is by using an inactivated form of the virus that is no longer alive and does not have the ability to replicate or cause infection. Other versions of the flu vaccine are made by using only a single gene from the flu virus, rather than the whole virus, which also does not have the ability to cause illness. The only live version of the flu vaccine which exists is the intranasal flu vaccine.
• Why do some people not feel well after getting the vaccine?
The most common side effects of flu vaccines include soreness, redness, and tenderness at the site where the vaccine was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches may also occur. In a randomized, blind study conducted in which people either received an inactivated flu vaccine or a saline shot, there were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.
• I have received a flu vaccine in the past, do I need the flu vaccine every year?
Everyone 6 months and older, especially those who are at high risk for contracting the flu, should receive a flu vaccine every year. The influenza virus is clever and can adapt and change every year. Vaccines are made annually to account for these changes and are made to incorporate the set of viruses most commonly responsible for illness in the previous flu season. In addition, a person’s immune protection from vaccines can decline over time. Receiving the flu shot annually is the best protection from the flu.
• Should I wait to get vaccinated so that I am covered longer into the flu season?
The CDC recommends receiving the flu vaccine by the end of October. It takes approximately two weeks to develop immune protection after receiving the flu vaccine. Therefore, it is never too early to receive your vaccine. Typically flu season begins as early as October, peaks between December and February, and can last through May. Getting vaccinated later has also shown to be beneficial and can offer coverage through the end of the flu season.

Pharm Group at SLVH

L to R: Sadie Spencer, SLVH Pharmacy Director, Author Reyna Reyes, Clinical Pharmacist, Loretta DeHerrera, Pharmacy Tech, Vanessa Gutierrez, Pharmacy Tech, and Kelli Garcia, Pharmacy Purchaser