It’s highly effective in helping to prevent the flu, especially when you get it early in the season. If you still haven’t gotten yours, it’s not too late. Perhaps you believe in some of the commonly held misconceptions surrounding this topic? Allow me to set the record straight.
Each year, researchers develop the vaccine based on which types of influenza they think are going to be the most prominent. Since they’re relying on educated guesses as to what virus type will circulate that year and no one can fully predict the future, the vaccine isn’t 100 percent effective (a common complaint I hear). How well it works can range widely from season to season, depending on how many people get vaccinated (the more, the better), as well as the similarity between the viruses in the vaccine and the actual viruses going around the community. But even during years when there isn’t a good match, the vaccine still helps protect you. That’s because if you do contract the flu, you will likely get a shorter, less severe case.
Some people believe that the vaccine can cause the flu—this is completely false. The virus in the vaccine is dead, so it cannot give you an active case of the flu. You may notice a low-grade fever after getting the shot, but this is not the flu! It’s your body doing its job: making antibodies and preparing to fight the virus. While it is possible to have a bad reaction to the vaccine, it’s extremely rare, with less than 1 percent of people having one.
Remember, foregoing your shot increases your chances of spreading the flu to others, including people who are at high risk for complications, such as babies, pregnant women, older people, and those with chronic health conditions, especially diabetes and lung, heart and kidney disease. (More than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year from flu-related complications, and it can even lead to death.)