One of my passions as a pharmacist is educating patients about the importance of vaccinations and answering their questions to make sure they are well informed and can make the best decision for themselves and their family members. So, I wanted to help answer some of the most common questions about the flu vaccine for the 2016-2017 flu season.
Myth: It’s too early to get the flu vaccine, I should wait until October at the earliest.
Fact: Flu season is right around the corner! While it feels like it’s too early to be talking about getting the flu vaccine, it’s NOT! There are a couple of reasons why:
(1) the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends getting the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available (which is now!)
(2) it takes your body two weeks to build up immunity to the vaccine to ensure you are fully protected.
Sona Pharmacy has had the vaccine in stock since mid-August. Come in any time 7 days a week to get in, get vaccinated, and get out. We promise it will be quick and easy.
Myth: If I get the vaccine now, then I won’t be protected during the last part of the flu season.
Fact: Based on previous published studies, most individuals’ immunity after receiving the flu vaccine lasts through the full flu season. However, everyone’s immune system is different. As we age, our immune system declines over time, and there is some evidence that shows immunity in older adults might decline more quickly. For older adults, there is a high dose flu vaccine that is specifically designed for patients 65 years of age and older. This vaccine has a higher dose of antigen, which is intended to create a stronger immune response. We have both kinds of flu vaccines and we’re here to answer any questions and help you make a good decision.
Myth: If I get the flu vaccine, I will get the flu.
Fact: We’ve all heard people say this, including my own mom! But the flu shot does not have any live strains, so the vaccine cannot cause the flu. In the example of my mom, she received her flu vaccine when she was young and remembered getting sick afterward and refused to get another one for years. She changed her mind when I became a pharmacist and educated her about the importance of receiving the vaccine and explained that most people simply have a sore arm. Some people have a low grade fever, headache, or muscle aches that can last a couple of days. My mom also remembered having a sore throat and nasal congestion, but was not at home for multiple days due to illness, so she probably just had a cold.
The flu usually comes on quickly and often people describe it as being ‘hit by a Mack truck.’ Flu symptoms include fever (usually 100-102 °F), headache, chills, muscle aches, fatigue/weakness that can last 2-3 weeks, and extreme exhaustion in the beginning. In addition, there can be some symptoms that are similar to a cold such as stuffy nose, congestion, and cough.
Myth: I’m afraid of needles because flu shots are painful
Fact: I’ve never met someone that does like getting shots or likes needles! However, the flu shot is a quick and often painless experience. Many patients who don’t watch don’t even know they received their injection until I tell them they are all done! If you are afraid of needles, the best thing you can do is take deep breaths, relax your mind, and relax your muscles. Since the vaccine is injected into the muscle, if it’s relaxed, then it’s less likely to be painful. After you receive the vaccine, I encourage patients to move their arm around to work the soreness out quicker. Watch this video from @WLOS_13 to see how quick, easy, and painless it can to receive the vaccine: http://wlos.com/news/local/flu-vaccines-available-before-flu-season-begins
And yes, that is me giving the flu shot in the video 🙂
Myth: I don’t have a doctor so I can’t get the vaccine or it’s too expensive
Fact: Now people can receive the flu vaccine at the pharmacy. You don’t have to have a primary care physician in order to receive the vaccine. You can simply walk into the pharmacy and ask for a flu vaccine. Pharmacies are setup to bill most insurances (including Medicare and Medicaid) for the flu vaccine, which means it’s a $0 copay for most patients. Missing work is expensive.
Myth: I can’t get the flu if I’ve had the vaccine.
Fact: Unfortunately, some might still get the flu even though they received the vaccine.
- One reason they might get the flu is because they were exposed to the flu virus shortly before receiving the vaccine or during the 2 weeks it takes the body to build up immunity to the vaccine.
- Each year the strains that are in the flu vaccine are based on the most prevalent strains during the previous flu season. As the new flu season emerges, a particular strain might develop that is not covered by the current vaccine. However, getting a flu shot is better than having no protection at all, as it can help protect against other strains and lessen the severity of the flu if you do get it.
Myth: The nasal vaccine is just as effective as the shot.
Fact: This year the CDC is recommending that everyone 6 months of age or older should receive a flu shot but NO one should receive the live-attenuated nasal vaccine. The nasal vaccine was shown to be less effective, and therefore, is not recommended this year. Otherwise, the CDC does not recommend one injectable product over another product, but they do recommend to get vaccinated.
Myth: I don’t need to get a flu shot every year.
Fact: Yes, you do! Every year the strains in the vaccine can change based on predictions and past evidence of the influenza strains in the community. For example, in 2008 when H1N1 cases started showing up everyone was encouraged to receive an additional H1N1 flu vaccine that year since the regular flu vaccine did not contain that strain. Every year since, H1N1 has been included in the flu vaccine. Also, your immunity protection decreases over time, so getting a yearly vaccination is the best protection against the flu!
Myth: Getting the flu isn’t really a big deal.
Fact: The flu is a serious illness, especially to young children, older adults, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes. Children less than 6 months cannot receive the vaccine and it is highly encouraged that all other family members or people that come into contact with the child become vaccinated to help protect the child. More than 200,000 people on average in the US are hospitalized for flu related complications each year.
Myth: If I get the flu, I will just take Tamiflu®
Fact: Tamiflu® can help reduce the severity of the flu if you are diagnosed and start treatment within 48 hours, but it can not cure the flu! The treatment is costly (copays often exceed $100) and way more expensive than a flu shot. Also, depending on your family size (young children, people with weakened immune systems), if one person has the flu then everyone in the house will need to be treated with Tamiflu® and those costs add up quickly. This is why prevention is the key!
Don’t delay! Get your flu shot today!