Every flu season, people question whether getting the flu vaccine is truly necessary, or even safe. It’s common to think the vaccine causes side effects or the flu itself (it doesn’t!). Or assume repeated vaccination doesn’t do all that much. Some lucky few may think they’ve never had the flu before, so the vaccine isn’t for them.
Really, flu vaccine myths abound! But getting the flu shot is an important, safe part of your annual healthcare routine. Here are some common questions and their evidence-based answers.
1. Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes! The safety of vaccines, including the flu vaccine, is rigorously monitored and studied by healthcare agencies and organizations worldwide. Before any vaccine is approved for use, it’s extensively researched and tested, and it’s continuously monitored. Serious side effects are rare, and the known benefits of the flu vaccine greatly outweigh any potential risks.
2. Is it safe to get the flu vaccine during pregnancy?
Yes! While it’s prudent to evaluate what you put in your body during pregnancy, it’s important to understand that vaccination doesn’t increase the risk of miscarriage or fetal anomalies.
Getting sick while pregnant is no fun. Because pregnant people are at higher risk of serious illness and are one of the top high-risk groups, the CDC encourages them to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine has a very long track record of safe use during pregnancy, and it protects babies for several months after birth, too, during the time when they are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.
Children under five–and especially under two (have any of those at your house?)–are at high risk of serious illness. Getting vaccinated yourself is a good way to help protect them.
3. Does the flu vaccine give you the flu?
No. You can’t get the flu from the vaccination – the vaccine is made with viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore can’t infect you. The most common side effects from the flu shot are soreness, redness and tenderness where the shot was given.
There are other respiratory illnesses caused by other viruses, and it does take about two weeks to receive the full benefit of the flu vaccine.
4. Can I still get the flu after getting vaccinated?
Yes, but the flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of having to go to the doctor with flu by 40% to 60%. Meaning if you contract the flu and have been vaccinated, it will most likely be less severe.
5. Who should get the flu vaccine?
The flu vaccine is recommended for pretty much everyone six months and older. And it’s especially important for those who are at higher risk of severe complications from the flu, including:
- Young children (six months to five years old)
- Adults aged 65 and older
- Pregnant people
- Individuals with chronic medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
- Healthcare workers and caregivers
- Residents of long-term care facilities
- Anyone wanting to reduce their risk of contracting or spreading the flu
6. When should I get the flu vaccine?
While September and October are the best times because flu season typically peaks between December and March, any time is a good time. Influenza can occur as late as May, so, it’s never too late to get the flu vaccine.
7. Do I have to get the flu vaccine every year?
Yes. Flu viruses are constantly changing and mutating. The CDC monitors flu viruses around the world, and a new seasonal vaccine mix is made every year to prevent the most likely viruses from affecting us.
8. I’ve never had the flu; do I really need the vaccine?
Yes, you need a flu shot even if you’ve never had the flu. Though you may have a flu-free past, you’re not guaranteed a flu-free future.
9. Should I get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines?
Yes, it is considered a good idea—and safe—to get both the flu and COVID-19 vaccines as they protect you from two different things. You can get them at the same visit to a local pharmacy if you are due for both vaccines. Find a location and schedule your shots here >
10. Where can I get the flu vaccine?
If you have an appointment at WHA during flu season (any appointment), we are happy to give you a vaccine. You don’t even have to let us know beforehand; we’ll ask when you check in. Otherwise, use https://www.vaccines.gov/ to find a location.
If you’re already coming for a visit, please take the opportunity to get vaccinated.
For more information about influenza, check out the CDC website.