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Common Misconceptions about the Flu Shot and Why You Really Need It

No, the flu shot cannot give you the flu. We’ve all heard this before and with recent flu seasons, we might even be tempted to believe it.

Flu vaccines given with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with flu vaccine viruses that have been 'inactivated' and are therefore not infectious, or with no flu vaccine viruses at all. The most common side effects from the flu shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur.

But then why do some people contract the flu even after they’ve been vaccinated?

· Some people can become ill from other respiratory viruses besides flu that cause symptoms similar to flu. The flu vaccine only protects against influenza, not other illnesses.

· It is possible to be exposed to influenza viruses shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period after vaccination that it takes the body to develop protection.

· A person may have been exposed to a flu virus that is very different from the viruses the vaccine is designed to protect against. The ability of a flu vaccine to protect a person depends largely on the similarity between the viruses selected to make the vaccine and those spreading/causing illness. There are many different flu viruses that spread and cause illness among people.

While how well the flu vaccine works can vary from year to year, there are many reasons to continue getting it. First and foremost, getting vaccinated is your best bet at preventing the flu this season. This is especially true for children, older adults, and amongst people with chronic health conditions.

If you do get sick, the flu shot may make your illness milder. Not only does getting vaccinated protect you, it also protects the people around you, including those who are the most vulnerable to serious flu illnesses.A 2014 study showed that the flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit admission by 74% during flu seasons from 2010-2012. Another study published in the summer of 2016 showed that people 50 years and older who got a flu vaccine reduced their risk of getting hospitalized from flu by 57%. (CDC)

Be sure to call your primary care provider to schedule your annual flu shot. Need a primary care doctor? Call our Primary Care Access Line at 603.314.4750. If you are uninsured or underinsured visit one of our clinics run by our Parish Nurse Program in partnership with Walgreens. Visit our website for a complete list of dates and locations.

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