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4 Reasons People Avoid the Flu Shot—And Why You Shouldn’t

4 Reasons People Avoid the Flu Shot—And Why You Shouldn’t

Getting the vaccine every year can protect you and your loved ones.

Flu season is here, and with it, symptoms like fever, body aches, chills and congestion. Yet surprisingly, more than half of all Americans opt against the flu vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Why? Some think the shot doesn’t work. Others just don’t like needles.

You name the reason, and Radhika Vayani, DO, of Medical City Alliance in Texas, has heard it. We teamed up with her to bust the top four excuses people use to not get the flu shot.

Reason #1: “I’m healthy. I don’t need the flu shot.”
Reality: "Anyone can get the flu," Dr. Vayani says. In fact, the CDC estimates that the flu has resulted in 9.3 million to 49 million illnesses each year in the United States since 2010. That’s why the CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone age six months and up, starting in October. If the fear of getting sick isn't enough to make you get one, do it for others. “Getting the vaccine is about protecting yourself, but … it's also about protecting the people around you,” Vayani says. Those most at risk of flu-related complications include babies and young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with chronic health issues.

Reason #2: “It’s too late to get the flu shot.”
Reality:
While experts generally recommend that you should get the shot as soon as it becomes available, the vaccine is helpful throughout flu season. According to the CDC, the optimal time for the shot is in October, but flu season usually peaks in January or February and can last as last as late as May. 

Reason #3: “The flu shot gives you the flu.”
Reality: “I hear this myth about ten times a day,” says Vayani. Fact is, "it's impossible," she says. "The vaccine is made from viruses that aren't active." 

Once you've had the shot, it takes about two weeks to build up immunity. During that time, you may feel flu-like side effects, such as headaches or a mild fever. And there's always the chance that you may come down with the flu if you were exposed to it right before or after the shot, before your body's had time to develop immunity.

Reason #4: “Why should I get the shot? There are drugs that treat the flu.”
Reality:
If you do get the virus and end up taking the prescription antivirals, they can lessen the symptoms and shorten the illness by one or two days. However, it’s important to remember they’re not a cure-all, and they’ve been known to cause side effects like nausea and diarrhea, says Vayani. Her advice is to lower your risk of getting the flu altogether by getting the vaccine.

If you do get the flu, see your doctor right away, she adds. The sooner you can get tested and diagnosed, the sooner you can start medication and begin to feel better. The medicine is especially important for people at high risk of complications from the flu, such as seniors and people with weakened immune systems.

Medically reviewed in August 2018. Updated in October 2019. 

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