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A woman is getting a shot from a medical professional

Misconceptions About Flu Shots: Myths vs. Facts

Separate fact from fiction about the flu shot.

Influenza, also referred to as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms of the flu include: sudden onset of high fever, muscle aches, chills, sore throat, nasal congestion and fatigue. The single most effective thing you can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Read on to learn about some misconceptions about flu shots to help you make the right choice for yourself and your community.

Myth 1: Healthy people who have never had the flu do not need to be vaccinated.

Fact: Anyone can get the flu as it is spread easily from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months of age and older gets vaccinated against the flu every year, with rare exceptions.

Myth 2 : Flu shots are the only option you have to be vaccinated against the flu. 

Fact: Scared of injections? A nasal spray flu vaccine might be just what you need! It’s available for use by healthy people (except pregnant women) between the ages of two and 49 years.

Myth 3 : The flu shot can give you influenza.

Fact: Can a flu shot give you the flu? The flu shot cannot give you influenza because it only contains pieces of the inactivated flu virus. Many people mistake symptoms from colds and other illnesses for the flu.

There are some mild side effects of the flu vaccine that are not the flu, such as soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given.2 You might also experience a low-grade fever, headache, or muscle aches. Any of these side effects, however, are usually mild and much less severe than symptoms caused by the actual flu.

If you do end up with a sore throat, cough, or other flu symptoms—or test positive for the flu—after getting a flu shot, it may be because you were exposed to a flu virus that is different from the one you’ve been vaccinated against.2

A person is putting the vaccine into a syringe

There are some mild side effects of the flu vaccine that are not the flu, such as soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling where the shot was given.2

Myth 4 : The nasal spray vaccine can give you influenza.

Fact: Similarly, the nasal spray vaccine cannot give you the flu. The viruses contained in the nasal spray flu vaccine are attenuated (i.e., weakened), which means they cannot cause flu symptoms.

Myth 5 : The flu is like a bad cold.

Fact: The flu is not just a bad cold. Many people underestimate the health risks of flu. Each year, the flu sends thousands of Americans to the hospital. Complications can be life threatening, especially in children and the elderly. In 2013, the CDC reported that about 90% of children who died from the flu had not been vaccinated. Fortunately, vaccines can prevent millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits each year.2

Myth 6 : Flu shots protect you from the flu for years.

Fact: Just because you got a flu shot last year doesn't mean you're protected this year. Flu viruses change from year to year, and that means the flu vaccine must be updated yearly as well.

Myth 7 : Flu shots cause autism.

Fact: Single-dose vaccines do not contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that has been blamed for health problems, including autism. Numerous studies have also shown no link between thimerosal exposure and autism.

Myth 8: Some flu vaccines are better than others.

Fact: While there are many different types of flu vaccines each year, the best vaccine is the one you can access that is appropriate for your age and health status.2

Myth 9: It’s better to get vaccinated twice to help boost immunity to the flu.

Fact: There are no studies showing that more than one dose of the flu vaccine, during the same influenza season, provides any benefit.2

Myth 8: Some flu vaccines are better than others.

Fact: While there are many different types of flu vaccines each year, the best vaccine is the one you can access that is appropriate for your age and health status.2

A woman is receiving a shot in her upper arm from a medical professional

Myth 10: Getting the flu shot increases your risk of getting COVID-19.

Fact: There is no evidence to support that getting a flu shot increases your risk of getting sick from a coronavirus, such as the one that causes COVID-19.2

Myth 11: It’s too late in the season to get my flu shot.

Fact: Even if it’s “late” in the flu season in December or later, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.2 As long as flu viruses are circulating, you should get your flu shot.

Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever.2 Not only can they keep you from getting sick with the flu, they also help protect your family and community, reducing the risk of flu-related hospitalizations for high-risk communities like children, older adults, pregnant people, those with chronic health conditions, and more.2 If you have any remaining questions, please contact your healthcare provider.

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