As a physician and specialist in infectious disease, each fall I prepare and advocate for all of my patients and colleagues to get a flu vaccine.
And every year, there’s some skepticism or misconceptions that I try to dispel.
Here are some commonly asked questions about influenza and the flu vaccine that you may have, too:
Yes, absolutely — for the same reason you put your seat belt on every time you drive, even if you haven’t had an accident.
No, you should get your vaccine as soon as they’re available. The flu season begins in October, and some years we see early peaks in November and December.
The earlier you’re vaccinated, the better chance you’ll have of being protected from the virus throughout the year.
As with any vaccine, it will take about two weeks to reach maximum antibody response.
Yes. There are constant changes in the makeup of the influenza virus, so getting vaccinated every year is highly advised.
Not all strains of the flu are in the vaccine, so there’s still a chance you may contract influenza even if you’ve been vaccinated.
However, we shouldn’t let perfect get in the way of good. Vaccination isn’t solely about prevention. There’s a generally accepted notion that vaccination may modify the severity of the flu.
This is particularly important for people who are at an increased risk for complications of the flu, including those who are very young, very old, overweight or immunocompromised. The flu is a potential killer to those at risk for complications.
There are some minimal possible side effects of a sore arm, mild achiness, perhaps very low-grade fever.
You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine — just like you can’t get tetanus from a tetanus vaccine or hepatitis from a hepatitis vaccine. The vaccines in use this year are not live strains, so it is biologically impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine.
Also, there is absolutely no evidence that autism risk is tied to the flu vaccine, or any vaccine.
Yes. There are multiple strains of influenza in circulation, and just because there was recovery from one strain one year does not mean that future bouts of flu will not be catastrophic.
Influenza is a natural enemy of both healthy and not-so-healthy individuals. Anyone can come down with severe illness because of the flu, which may lead to life-threatening consequences such as pneumococcal and staphylococcal pneumonia.
Absolutely. Pregnancy has been identified as its own category of risk for complications.
Absolutely. It will help prevent the flu from being transmitted to your very vulnerable young child.
Talk to your primary care doctor about any concerns you have. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website also has a wealth of information.
Most insurance plans cover the cost of the flu vaccine, which is widely available at physician offices, pharmacies and schools.
Get vaccinated as soon as possible. It could save your life, and help protect the people you love.