Can the Flu Shot Really Make You Get the Flu?

While no one enjoys getting the flu, it seems many people prefer taking the risk of infection over vaccination, with only 41.7% of adults aged 18 years and older receiving the flu vaccine in the 2015-16 season according to the CDC. The flu can be a serious, even deadly viral illness for many, so what could be the hang up?

There are several myths floating about regarding the flu vaccine that some use as an excuse, with one of the most popular being “the flu shot will make you get the flu.” Of course, this is quite the misconception as the vaccine cannot actually cause the flu. While it is true that one form of the shot is made using the virus, it has been inactivated, thus rendering it noninfectious. Some patients may develop mild side effects after receiving the vaccine, such as a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches, which is what causes people to believe they have actually gotten the flu. However, this is simply the immune response to the vaccination and should last only 1-2 days.

For those who develop more flu-like symptoms, there are several reasons this could occur shortly after receiving the flu shot:

  • Another virus with similar symptoms is present, such as rhinovirus, which also spreads around during flu season; the flu shot only protects patients from the influenza virus.
  • A patient could have been exposed to the influenza virus prior to receiving the vaccination, or during the 2-week immune protection development period after.
  • The vaccination protects against a specific strain of influenza and the patient may have been exposed to a different type. Unfortunately, there are many different types of influenza viruses and the vaccination relies on the similarity to a specific strain.
  • The vaccinations effectiveness can vary, so those vaccinated may still be infected with the virus.

In summation, while the flu shot may not be 100% effective in preventing the flu, it is not possible to actually become infected with the virus from the vaccine itself. For people who are able to receive the vaccine, taking the step to prevent the spread of influenza is always recommended over risking the health and wellbeing of yourself and others.

If you and your family are still in need of this season’s flu shot, visit us today!