The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu: Find out why

The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu: Find out why

Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu (1). And vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of complications if they do catch the flu (1).

Yet a growing number of people are shunning vaccination (2). Why? Often because they’ve heard myths like “The flu vaccine can give me the flu”.

Now, let’s be clear on this. The flu vaccine CANNOT give you the flu. Let’s look at why.

There are two types of influenza vaccine widely available: inactivated influenza vaccines and live attenuated influenza vaccines (4).

The inactivated flu vaccines are the ones given as an injection (4). Inactivated vaccines are currently made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been killed (inactivated) and are therefore not infectious or with proteins from a flu vaccine virus (5). In other words, the flu shot cannot give you the flu.

The live attenuated influenza vaccines are the ones given as a nasal spray (4). The nasal spray vaccine is made with attenuated (weakened) live flu viruses that are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. They cannot infect the lungs or other warmer areas (5). In other words, the nasal spray flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.

Another common myth is that “The flu vaccine can cause serious side effects”.

Now, let’s be clear on this one too. Safe and effective vaccines are available and have been used for more than 70 years (1). Severe side effects are extremely rare (3).

That’s not saying that the vaccine doesn’t come with any risk of side effects. However, they are far less common than complications relating to the flu itself (6), and they are more common in children not previously exposed to the vaccine or virus than in adults.

If you were to experience them, they would only be short term, mild and localised. You may experience some soreness or swelling near where you had the injection, or feel a little tired or have muscle aches for a day or so (6). The flu vaccine is proven to be safe. Severe side effects are extremely rare (2) and severe allergic reactions to influenza vaccines are very rare too, being estimated at less than 1 in a million doses (2).All in all, the benefits of vaccination substantially outweigh the risks (6).

The flu infects approximately 10-30% of Europeans every year and causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalisations across Europe (7). So, if you hear these myths being shared, speak up. Be a myth buster. Explain to your family and friends why the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu and that the flu vaccine is proven to be safe. And if you haven’t had your flu shot yet, now’s the time to get it.


References
(1) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5861790/
(3) https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/influenza-are-we-ready/5-myths-about-the-flu-vaccine
(4) https://www.euro.who.int/.../types-of-seasonal-influenza-vaccine
(5) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/keyfacts.htm
(6) https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/prevention-and-control/vaccine-safety
(7) https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/seasonal-influenza/facts

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