This year’s flu season is worse than usual, with diagnoses and hospitalizations continuing to increase every week and over 4,000 deaths last week (10% of all deaths) from influenza. To make matters worse, there is a lot of misinformation out on social media regarding the flu and the flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) have a page on common misconceptions about the flu and vaccines that everyone should be aware of. Popular Science has also run an article on the importance of getting a flu shot. Here are some important points:
- The flu vaccine’s effectiveness can vary from season to season and for different strains of flu, but vaccination reduces the severity and duration of the symptoms even where it is not completely effective.
- Flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from influenza. This flu season, at least 53 children have died due to influenza.
- The flu shot will not give you the flu. The most common reaction to a flu shot is soreness at the spot where the shot was given. Some people have a mild low-grade fever and achiness as their body builds its response to the shot, but this is not the flu and symptoms usually last only one or two days. Finally, some common cold viruses have some symptoms similar to the flu that are also common during flu season, causing some people to think they have the flu when they do not.
- The flu shot, or any other vaccines, will not give your child autism. The original study indicating a link between vaccines and autism has been retracted due to falsified results in the study, and no later studies have shown any link between the two.
- It’s not too late to get a flu shot. The ideal time to get a flu shot is in October before flu season starts, but getting one now can still be effective. It takes about two weeks for the flu shot to reach its full effectiveness. “Flu season” typically runs through the end of March, but that is just the peak time for flu. This year’s season appears to be bigger and perhaps will be longer than usual, and the influenza cases are reported year-round.
- If you don’t know where you can get a flu shot, the CDC has a flu shot locator tool.