There are two very common misconceptions about flu vaccines (and other vaccines as well).
1. The first is that they sometimes don’t work, meaning that a person gets vaccinated and then catches the flu anyway. While that is a disappointing outcome for the person who is now sick with the flu it doesn’t mean that the vaccine ‘didn’t work’. Vaccines allow your body to build up immunity to a specific strain (or strains) of influenza, which decreases the length and severity of your illness should you become ill. A vaccine isn’t a guarantee of not becoming sick; its purpose is to keep you out of the hospital. Vaccines are a little bit like seatbelts. They can’t guarantee you’ll never have a car crash, but they will help you stay safe should you end up in one.
2. The second question we are asked a lot is, ‘can you get sick from the flu shot’. Strictly speaking, no. Someone receiving a flu vaccine is not contracting the flu from the vaccine. However, there are two outcomes that may make someone feel like the vaccine ‘made them sick’. The first is an immune response. As your body builds an immune response to the flu virus (thanks to the vaccine) you may feel run down. You might have muscle aches or headaches…all symptoms that feel like the flu. However, you should recover quickly (24 – 48 hours in most cases) and you’re not contagious with a flu infection, you’re just building immunity to influenza.
In some rare cases, a person may have an allergic reaction to a vaccine. Symptoms could include redness, soreness, hives or even an anaphylactic response. These symptoms should be treated and monitored by a doctor, but they are also not because the patient is now sick with the flu from their vaccine.
Hopefully, this helps to clear up some common misconceptions about flu vaccination. Vaccines are used to prevent serious illness and death, but like all vaccines, they can come with side effects, most of which are mild and pass quickly.
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