Some myths about flu vaccines that are simply not true. Although, in times of pandemic it is essential to know them so as to avoid, innocently, believing in them
The flu season in this fateful 2020 is unlike any of the past decades. Of course, the fact that the world has been living the COVID-19 pandemic for almost nine months and there is no vaccine yet, will influence this flu season. This situation causes the anxiety of many for the flu to be higher than ever this year, to the point that the flu vaccine is an express request this season.
It is true that getting the flu can feel terrible. Nobody likes to have sore muscles, high fever, and even an upset stomach. But, catching the flu while the new coronavirus travels freely around the world … that can be terrifying.
Fortunately, advances in medicine have allowed scientists to develop new flu vaccines. And each year, they are much more effective. Yet many people still avoid getting a flu shot because of misconceptions that run rampant in public opinion.
All this was aggravated due to the COVID-19 crisis. So a research published in the NY Pilot addressed some myths about flu vaccines that are simply not true. Although, in times of pandemic it is essential to know them so as to avoid, innocently, believing in them.
1. The vaccine will give me COVID-19
The flu vaccine definitely won’t give you COVID-19, it won’t even give you the flu. Also, thinking that you will get a completely separate disease is quite far from the truth.
Yes, you may experience mild symptoms, such as chills or muscle aches, after receiving the vaccine. But, this is normal (although not common) and it should go away after a few hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are emphatic on this issue. “There is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases your risk of getting sick with a coronavirus, like the one that causes COVID-19”.
In January 2020, a widely publicized study concluded that getting vaccinated against influenza could increase the risk of other respiratory diseases, such as the coronavirus. However, that research was later corrected and refuted by another Canadian study published in May.
2. The vaccine will protect me from COVID-19
No, it is not true either. There is absolutely no evidence that this vaccine protects you from COVID-19. The flu vaccine can, of course, protect you from influenza, a completely different virus from the new coronavirus. That is your intention and it is reason enough to get the vaccine shot..
Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) are constantly urging that you take flu vaccination seriously this year. They argue that it is better to avoid the appearance of a “twin”, an influenza pandemic that overlaps the current one. They also remember that not getting the flu vaccine is a threat to public health and also to the hospital system.
Annually, the flu is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. Also, this disease temporarily suppresses the immune system and makes it susceptible to other health conditions, including pneumonia. On the other hand, it can also make pre-existing conditions worse.
This year, hospital systems remain in the fight against COVID-19, even today when there is a second wave. So the WHO points out that piling influenza cases on top of COVID-19 cases could cause a more extreme crisis.
3. I got a vaccine last year, so I don’t need another one
The flu vaccine is not the same every year. Jocelyn Konrad, director of the Rite Aid pharmaceutical corporation, explained to NY Pilot that it is advisable to get vaccinated annually. “Flu viruses evolve very fast. That is why new vaccines are released every year, to coincide with the most common ones expected next season. That said, last season’s vaccine may not protect you from this year’s viruses”.
Likewise, she recalled that the body’s immune response to vaccination decreases over time. Therefore, annual vaccination is the best defense against the flu. “Even if the last flu season feels like yesterday, you should make sure you go to a medical center to renew your vaccine”, she said.
4. The flu shot will give me the flu
Another myth that makes people skip the flu shot. “Some people report having mild reactions to the flu vaccination. Perhaps mild fever and aches, which are mistaken for influenza. But, those symptoms are not actually the flu”, explained Konrad.
In this regard, the CDC explains that influenza vaccines can be placed under two premises. The first, with the inactive influenza virus and, therefore, does not cause infection or symptoms. And second, with a gene from an active flu virus, something that generates an immune response, but not strong enough to cause serious symptoms.
So if someone feels a bit sore after putting it on, it’s better to feel that for a few hours than spending days in bed, immobile because they got the flu.
Although the effectiveness varies from season to season, in flu-like times the CDC reports that the vaccine reduces the risk of having to suffer the disease between 40% and 60%.
Plus, it’s not just about the flu — the vaccine helps reduce hospitalizations for any related condition. For example, in recent years the vaccine reduced the chances of children entering the intensive care unit by 74%. In the case of adults it was 40%.
5. The vaccine will make me more susceptible to other respiratory diseases
A 2012 study suggested that people who receive this vaccine are at higher risk for other respiratory diseases. Many read this and spread the word giving that conclusion as a certainty. However, the researchers were then asked to delve into the ‘association’, and numerous studies have since refuted that nonexistent link.
Even the CDC says that medical professionals are unclear why the 2012 study suggested these results. On the contrary, they maintain that there is not an ounce of certainty about this and should not be used as an excuse for not getting vaccinated.
6. Getting the real flu will make me immune
Some people believe that if a housemate is sick, they will probably get the virus too. Also, they think that if they catch it, then they will be immune the next time the flu appears.
The CDC qualifies that idea as a false belief. Remember that getting the flu carries the risk of dehydration, hospitalization, and other health complications. Likewise, they refer that there is danger even for those who are relatively healthy people before they get sick. Bottom Line: It is much better to get vaccinated in advance than to wait for what you may think is inevitable.
7. I’m healthy, so I don’t need a flu shot
Some tend to think, “I am young and generally in good condition. So if I get the flu I will only feel bad for a day or two”. False.
The CDC states that healthy children and adults may be at risk of being hospitalized or suffering serious complications from a flu outbreak. It is a situation that surely some will never believe until it happens to them. So it is best not to hesitate and get vaccinated to avoid terrible and unexpected consequences.
8. The flu shot doesn’t even work
It can be hard to believe in the power of the vaccine, especially when someone has become ill after receiving it. The CDC makes it clear that “the influenza vaccine is not perfect, no vaccine is. However, the flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent the disease”.
And here we repeat what is expressed in myth number 4: “Although the effectiveness varies from season to season, in flu-like times the CDC reports that the vaccine reduces the risk of having to suffer the disease between 40% and 60%”.
9. The flu season has already advanced and it is too late to get vaccinated
If you’re too busy to go to the doctor to get vaccinated well into November, it’s easy to forget about the vaccine until the following year. Some may think that if the flu season is almost over, there is no point in getting vaccinated.
That’s why CDC recommends getting a flu shot before the end of October. Also, the flu season can sometimes last until April of the following year. So whoever is sitting around thinking that it is too late for a vaccine will be better off getting vaccinated a few weeks later than not.
Who should and who shouldn’t get a flu shot?
Finally, the CDC recommends that everyone should get a flu shot, especially those most at risk: the elderly, children under the age of two, pregnant women, and those with chronic conditions.
The only people who should not get a flu shot are infants under six months of age and people with severe and life-threatening allergies to any ingredient in the flu vaccine.
Likewise, it is essential to see a doctor before receiving the vaccine. Currently, there are different types of flu vaccines approved for different ages. Therefore, the doctor who administers the vaccine will know how to choose the most suitable one for you. For example, the recombinant influenza vaccine is only approved for people 18 years old or older.
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