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Flu Shots - Myth vs. Reality

Woman sick with the flu

Since its creation, the modern flu vaccine has been a tremendous help in the fight for better public health. However, in recent years a significant amount of misinformation has emerged regarding the flu shot. Therefore, as part of our campaign to prevent diseases, the Alliance for Consumer Education urges you to get the facts about and dispel major myths of the flu.

Myth #1 - You can catch the flu from the flu vaccine

Fortunately, there is no risk of catching the flu through a flu shot. As Harvard University Medical School has documented, it contains an inactivated influenza virus. Therefore, it cannot cause an infection. However, since the protection often takes 1-2 weeks to start, many people who become infected during this window of time mistakenly blame the flu shot.

Myth #2 - The flu shot is 100 percent effective

While the medical community, including the National Institute of Health, still considers the flu vaccine to be the best method of disease prevention, it is not effective 100 percent of the time. As with all treatments, its effectiveness will vary from person to person. Therefore, not everyone who receives the vaccine will be successfully inoculated. Furthermore, there is no single strain of the flu. Instead multiple varieties will emerge every year. The flu shot will guard against the most common ones, but you may still be somewhat vulnerable to certain versions. Therefore, it is important to consistently use good hygiene, particularly after coming into contact with someone who is ill.

Myth #3 - Vaccines contain a level of mercury that will make someone sick

While it is true that many vaccines contain Thimerosal, an ethylmercury-based preservative, the Center for Disease Control has determined that the amount is too small to pose a health risk. Furthermore, there are also many vaccines do not even contain this preservative. The reason for this is that single-dose vials and nasal sprays are meant to be used only once and have different anti-contamination needs than multi-dose vials.

Myth #4 Healthy adults have no reason to get a flu shot

While the flu may simply seem to be a particularly unpleasant inconvenience to many healthy adults, it can actually be a death sentence to those with compromised immune systems. This is by no means an exaggeration. The CDC estimates that the flu kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. Some of the most at risk populations that fall into this category are people suffering from autoimmune diseases such as AIDS and lupus. Additionally, children and the elderly also are at greater risk to the influenza virus. Furthermore, pregnant women and their unborn children also face risks of severe complications. While most of these groups can receive vaccinations themselves, they can still face a risk of infection. Therefore, they must rely on herd immunity in order to stay safe.

Despite the statistics that indicate the disease’s potential lethality, many people continue to be reluctant to take precautions. Furthermore, the circulation of misinformation has caused a large segment of the public to hold unwarranted concerns about the flu shot. Yet by bringing more accurate information to light, we can effectively combat this all too common illness. For more information on infectious diseases, visit us at

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