When it comes to the flu shot, it's sometimes hard to sort out fact from fiction. However, knowing the facts can help you stay protected this flu season.
Here's one fact you can count on: A flu shot is part of your Regence preventive care benefits, with no out-of-pocket cost to you. There's no copay and no deductible, which means no hassle. You can get a flu shot at a doctor's office, clinic or pharmacy near you.
Here are some common myths and the truth about flu vaccines.
Myth: The flu shot can give you the flu
Flu shot fact: You cannot get sick from the flu shot. The vaccine in the shot is an inactive virus that is unable to multiply and reproduce.
It can take up to two weeks after receiving the vaccine to by fully protected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you get the flu a few days after receiving your vaccination, it's because you were exposed to a virus before you got your vaccination.
Myth: You shouldn't get a flu shot if you are pregnant
Flu shot fact: The flu shot is safe for pregnant women. In fact, notable organizations like the CDC, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics urge mothers-to-be to get a flu shot. That's because coming down with the flu while pregnant can lead to complications, such as going into labor too early.
Plus, a mother's flu shot may even offer protection for the baby once she or he enters the world.
Myth: The flu shot has mercury in it
Flu shot fact: Twenty years ago, this was true. Today? Not really. The most common flu vaccine comes from single-dose vials and pre-filled syringes of flu shot, as well as the nasal spray flu vaccine. These single-dose vaccines do not contain the preservative thimerosal, which is 49 percent ethylmercury, because they are used only once.
Flu vaccines in multi-dose vials do contain thimerosal to prevent germs, bacteria and fungi from contaminating the vaccine. Research show there is no link between thimerosal and autism, but if you are still worried about thimerosal, ask for a flu vaccine without it.
Myth: The strains in the vaccine are just a guess
Flu shot fact: Yes, sort of, but it's a very educated guess. Doctors and scientists at the CDC study influenza year round. They constantly study the way different strains of influenza spread and the types of viruses that are developing.
Plus, even though flu season peaks in January and February, low levels of the virus are always around. Scientists don't wait for a full-on outbreak to do their research.
Myth: I don't need it if everyone else has had one
Flu shot fact: The idea that person A doesn't need the shot because persons B, C and D got it is just wrong. Since 2010, the United States Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccination. That's to create what's called "herd immunity."
When most of the people in a community receive the flu vaccine, it can stop the virus in its tracks. Now the flu won't spread to people with weakened immune systems and those who may not be able to get the vaccine (such as infants, the elderly and people with ongoing health conditions).
Myth: The flu isn't that serious of an illness
Flu shot fact: During the 2015-16 flu season, the CDC estimated that 310,000 people were hospitalized for flu-related illnesses. An estimated 12,000 people died.
Even for those who do not develop dangerous complications from the flu, it's hardly a walk in the park. Flu symptoms—sore throat, fever, achiness and fatigue—can last up to a week.
Myth: I need to get vaccinated by late November or it's pointless
Flu shot fact: Getting vaccinated earlier in the season is ideal, but don't throw in the towel if you haven't gotten a shot by the time the turkey is carved. Flu season peaks in January and February and can last into the spring. So, if you haven't already, go get that flu shot!
Published on Oct. 1, 2010. Updated on Nov. 7. 2017.