A few days ago, I spoke with the faculty of a local early childhood education center about flu vaccine myths. See how you do on the true and false quiz I gave them:
I can tell when I am getting the flu and will leave work before I infect anyone.
False. According to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control), you are infectious the day before symptoms show up.
I never get the flu so it’s not necessary to get the vaccine.
False. Saying I’ve never had the flu is like saying, “I’ve never a car accident so I won’t wear my seat belt.”
I hate shots. I hear I can get a flu vaccine in a different form.
True. One flu vaccine, brand name Flu Mist, provides immunity when squirted in the nose. Non-pregnant, healthy people aged 2-49 years of age qualify for this type of vaccine.
I got the flu shot so I was healthy all year.
False. Perhaps it was the half-hour a day you added to your workout, or the surgical mask you wore to birthday parties, but your entirely healthy winter was not secondary just to the flu vaccine. The United States flu vaccine protects against several strains of flu predicted to cause illness this winter. This year’s vaccine contain both seasonal and the 2009 H1N1 strains. Your body builds up a defense (immunity) only against the strains covered in the vaccine. Immunity will not be conferred to the thousands of other viruses which exist. On the other hand, the vaccine probably did protect you from some forms of the flu, and two fewer weeks of illness feels great.
My friend got the flu shot last year, therefore, she was sick all winter.
My condolences. True, your friend was sick. But the answer is False, because the illnesses were not caused by the flu vaccine. Vaccines are not real germs, so you can’t “get” a disease from the vaccine. But to your body, vaccine proteins appear very similar to real germs and your immune system will respond by making protection against the fake vaccine germ. When the real germ comes along, pow, your body already has the protection to fend off the real disease. Please know, however, there is a chance that for a couple days after a vaccine, you will ache and have a mild fever. The reason? Your immune system is simply revving up. But no, the flu vaccine does not give you an illness.
I got the flu vaccine every year for the past decade. I will still need to get one this year.
True. Unfortunately, the flu strains change from year to year. Previous vaccines may not protect you against current germs.
I am a healthy adult and not at high risk for complications from the flu, so I will forgo the flu vaccine this year.
False. The flu vaccine is now recommended for everyone greater than 6 months of age. When supply is limited, targeted groups at risk for flu complications include all children aged 6 months–18 years, all persons aged ≥50 years, and persons with medical conditions that put them at risk for medical complications. These persons, people living in their home, their close contacts, and their CARETAKERS are the focus of vaccination.
Even if I get the flu, I’ll just wash my hands a lot to keep the germ from spreading. I have to come back to work because I don’t have much time off.
False, According to the American Academy of Pediatrics Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases, the influenza virus can spread from an infected person for about a week after infection.
Yes, kids get sick from others kids, but as a parent who comes in contact with two children, an early childhood educator who comes in contact with ten children, an elementary school teacher who comes in contact with twenty children or a high school teacher who comes into contact with one-hundred children daily, you may end up the one who seeds your community with a potentially deadly illness. Right now, flu vaccine clinics are as plentiful as Starbucks. Hit that CVS or Walgreens on the way home, wander into your doctor’s or grab a shot while you get groceries. By protecting yourself from the flu, you protect the children you care for.
Naline Lai, MD with Julie Kardos, MD
© 2010 Two Peds in a Pod℠