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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

Flu season is here, and with it symptoms like fever, body aches, chills and congestion. Yet surprisingly, about 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. About 5 to 20 percent of Americans become infected every year, causing more than 200,000 hospitalizations. 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. “The optimal time for the shot is in October, but flu season lasts through March,” Vayani says.

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 those pricey prescription antivirals, they’ll only lessen the symptoms and shorten the illness by one or two days. And that’s if the prescription meds even work. They’re not a cure-all, and they’ve been known to cause side effects like nausea and diarrhea, says Vayani. Her advice: Avoid the flu altogether, and get 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.

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