Flu Shots: Facts & Myths

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Influenza, also referred to as the flu, is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms of the flu include: sudden onset of high fever, muscle aches, chills, sore throat pain, sinus and nasal congestion, and fatigue. The single most effective thing you can do to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Unfortunately, there are quite a few myths about the flu shot that cause people to skip this important preventative measure.

  • Myth 1: Healthy people who have never had the flu do not need to be vaccinated.

    Fact: Anyone can get the flu as it is spread easily from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) recommends everyone who is 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu every year, with rare exceptions.

  • Myth 2: Flu shots are the only option you have to be vaccinated against the flu.

    Fact: Scared of injections? A nasal spray flu vaccine is available. It’s available for use by healthy people (except pregnant women) between the ages of 2 and 49.

  • Myth 3: The flu shot can give you influenza.

    Fact: Can a flu shot give you the flu? The flu shot cannot give you influenza because it only contains pieces of the inactivated flu virus. Many people mistake symptoms from colds and other illnesses for the flu.

  • Myth 4 : The nasal spray vaccine can give you influenza.

    Fact: Similarly, the nasal spray vaccine cannot give you the flu. The viruses contained in the nasal spray flu vaccine are attenuated (weakened), which means they cannot cause flu symptoms.

  • Myth 5: The flu is like a bad cold.

    Fact: Many people underestimate the health risks of the flu. Each year, the flu sends thousands of Canadians to the hospital. Complications can be life threatening, especially in children and the elderly. In 2013-2014,  PHAC reported that 90% of hospitalizations and other severe flu outcomes occurred among children who did not receive the flu vaccine.

  • Myth 6: Flu shots protect you from the flu for years.

    Fact: Just because you got a flu shot last year doesn't mean you're protected this year. Flu viruses change from year to year, and that means the flu vaccine must be updated yearly as well.

  • Myth 7: Flu shots cause autism.

    Fact: Single-dose vaccines do not contain thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that has been blamed for health problems, including autism. Numerous studies have shown no link between thimerosal exposure and autism.

    If you have any remaining questions, please contact your healthcare provider.