An early and severe flu season has prompted officials across the nation to declare a public health emergency, resulting in unusually high demand for the flu vaccine ... which is the best defense against the flu.
That said, with doctors and pharmacists pushing the flu vaccine like they’re on a sketchy street corner to keep hospital visit down and the public healthy, and with skeptics warning about flu shots like they're Soylent Green, it can be hard to make the simple decision to get the shot or not.
To make your life a little easier, here are a few things that are NOT true about the vaccine:
1. The flu shot will make you sick, so it’s not worth it.
The flu shot will not give you the flu. Yes, it contains a small amount of the flu virus, but only dead virus, which is incapable of causing infection. A very small percentage of people have a bad reaction to the shot. People with chicken egg allergies are the only people who will definitely have an adverse reaction, since the vaccine is made with eggs.
2. If everyone got the shot, the flu would be wiped out for the year.
Even at its most effective, the flu vaccine only protects against three strains of the flu, chosen each year by researchers. So even if everyone got the vaccine, they could still get sick with other strains.
3. The flu shot is creating superbugs that will eventually kill us all.
Unlike antibiotics, which kill infections through external means and do encourage more rapid evolution and strength of diseases (superbugs), vaccines work by introducing antibodies, the same things that the body would develop to fight a disease naturally.
4. You shouldn’t get the flu shot if you’re pregnant.
Pregnant women are at an increased risk of complications from a bad flu, like developing pneumonia, so they should especially be vaccinated.
5. The flu shot contains mercury and will cause birth defects.
There is a trace amount of mercury in the flu vaccine. But there is a mercury-free version available for young children and pregnant women, the only people who would need to worry about the mercury levels in the normal vaccine.
6. You can only get the flu once per season, so if you’ve already been sick there’s no need to get vaccinated.
Since there are several different strains of flu circulating every year, it’s definitely possible to get sick with more than one. The vaccine protects against the three strains predicted to be most prevalent in a given season, so even if you’ve already gotten one, the vaccine can protect against the other two.
7. Staying properly bundled up is all the flu protection you need.
Although flu season coincides with colder months, the two are not actually related. Flu season is about the natural cycle of the virus. Winter weather doesn’t increase your risk of getting the flu, even if you go out with wet hair and no scarf. That means that no matter how good you are at layering, you’re still at risk and should be vaccinated if you want to avoid getting sick.