If you or your family members sometimes skip annual flu shots, you aren’t alone: Only about 40 percent of U.S. residents got the flu vaccine last year.
But skipping the flu shot could be a deadly gamble: 80 percent of the U.S. children who died from the flu (a record number of 180) did not get a flu vaccine either, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
While the flu vaccine isn’t a guarantee that you won’t contract the illness, the CDC still recommends it as the most effective preventative. People offer plenty of reasons why they don’t get flu shots. Some may be valid (your baby is under six months old or you have an allergy to ingredients in the vaccine, for instance.) But there are some misconceptions about the vaccine that may prevent people from getting a shot. Here are four common myths — and corresponding facts — associated with flu vaccines.
1. Myth: The flu shot is too expensive.
Fact: If you have health insurance, you can get the flu shot for free from your doctor or a number of retail pharmacies. If you have Medicare, you’re also covered for one free flu shot per flu season through Medicare Part B.
Even if you have to pay for the shot (some drug stores may charge $30 to $70 for people without health insurance), the vaccine is typically more affordable than Tamiflu, the leading treatment for flu, and cheaper than missing work while you or your family members are sick.
2. Myth: The flu shot will give me the flu.
Fact: You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine because there is no live virus in the vaccine. It is possible to experience aches as your body responds to the flu shot, but you won’t get the flu from it. However, it does take about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective, so if you’ve already been exposed to the flu prior to getting the shot, you could possibly get sick with the flu before the vaccine starts working.
3. Myth: The flu shot doesn’t prevent the flu.
Fact: The shot can’t inoculate for strains that are undeveloped, but CDC research shows that the shot can reduce your chances of getting the flu by 40 percent to 60 percent, and can be life-saving for children. If you get the flu after you’ve been vaccinated, you’re likely to get a milder case of the illness, according to recent research.
4. Myth: The flu shot is hard to find.
Fact: As we get deeper into flu season, it’s common for some doctors’ offices and other providers to run out of the vaccine. That’s why you should go now when it’s widely available at various drugstores and doctors’ offices. The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months to get a flu shot by the end of October (but if you forget, it’s still helpful to get one as late as January).
Don’t buy into flu shot myths. Instead, educate yourself about the vaccine, and determine if getting the shot is the best decision for you.