Flu season is approaching, which means many people will be getting the influenza vaccine, but the vaccine brings about controversy. Many will refuse to get vaccinated, because they believe the vaccine is not worth it, or even worry it does more damage than good.
Caroline King-Widdall, a family physician currently practicing at Kaiser Permanente Skyline Medical Office in Salem, said she wants people to understand the difference between the myths and facts of the flu vaccine.
“The facts are that influenza is a serious illness,” Widdall said. “Every year, the U.S. sees as many as 49,000 flu-related deaths, most of them people older than 65. Flu can be especially serious among young children, older adults and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes.”
She also said even for healthy children the flu carries a risk of serious complications. The Centers of Disease recommends that almost everyone over 6 months of age should get vaccinated.
Widdall shared the truth behind some common flu vaccine myths:
Flu shots give you a case of the flu: “This simply isn’t possible because the virus in flu vaccine is either killed or inactivated,” Widdall said. Some may feel achy or feverish after an immunization for a few hours, but that is caused by the immune system being stimulated.
You’ve never had the flu, so you don’t need a flu shot: This does not guarantee your health in the future. “Protecting yourself from flu also helps safeguard the vulnerable people around you, including older adults, people with chronic health conditions, young children and infants,” Widdall said.
You got the shot last year so you don’t have to get it this year: “Flu viruses mutate every year, and a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time,” Widdall said. It is vital to get an update immunization for the best protection.
One year you had a flu shot and got the flu anyway: Widdall said if this happens you may have been vaccinated too late, or that you may have caught another kind of virus. The vaccination takes about two weeks to become effective.
Once you had the shot and still got stomach flu: Widdall said many people think the flu causes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, but it is actually a respiratory disease, which rarely causes digestive issues.
Flu vaccines can cause autism in children: “This mistaken belief is based on a concern about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative,” Widdall said. “The extremely low amounts of thimerosal in these vials may cause minor redness and swelling at the injection site. But the safety of thimerosal use in vaccines has been confirmed by the CDC, FDA and National Institutes of Health — as well as the independent National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the American Academy of Pediatrics.”