Can you get the flu from the flu vaccine? One of our junior doctors looks to see if there is any truth behind some of the many flu vaccine myths.
by Dr Clare Brehmer
As flu season starts I have heard more and more of the same rumours circulating again about the flu vaccine.
“It gives you flu” – “Last year I had the flu vaccine and it made me feel terrible!” – “I heard the more you have it the more tolerant you become – it’s not as effective.”
Even as a junior doctor my colleagues used to say these things, especially after the swine flu vaccine which many people said made them ill. And even I must admit, in the years when I wasn’t working in the NHS, I didn’t bother getting the flu vaccine from a pharmacy.
But this year I was offered the flu vaccination through work, so I decided to do some digging and found out the following.
It’s physically impossible to get the flu from the flu vaccine.
The vaccine doesn’t even contain live virus. Some people feel slightly achy in their muscles but this is just the body mounting an immune response.
Most of the time the side-affects are non-existent.
I can tell you this has been true for me as I had the vaccination yesterday and forgot I still had the plaster on my arm today.
Pregnant women can be vaccinated at any time.
And your baby gets a free-ride for up to 6 months after birth! One study in the US found that vaccinating pregnant women was 92% effective at preventing 0-1 year olds being admitted to hospital with flu. Until I read this 5 minutes ago I thought pregnant women could only have the vaccination after 12 weeks – not true!
You cannot build up tolerance to the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine is for a different strain of flu every year. It’s a lot of work for scientists / healthcare staff every year to protect everyone against the new strain. It is literally virus vs. humans every year, with no end in sight. The scientists have it pretty easy in 28 days later / I am Legend / World War Z / every other zombie virus movie.
You shouldn’t get the vaccine if you’re allergic to eggs.
This is because it could cause a severe reaction called anaphylaxis. However, if you’re not allergic to eggs the risk of having a reaction to the vaccine is less than 1 in a million.
The people who benefit most from your vaccination are your closest family and friends.
Your grandparents, your babies, your friends and family with illnesses such as cancer and diabetes are less likely to get flu when everyone around them has the flu vaccine.
Getting the flu vaccine will help stop you from feeling like hell for 2 days and you’re also doing it for them. Think of it as an extra Christmas present.
This year the flu vaccine is FREE to many.
All social care staff employed in a care home, registered nursing home or domiciliary care provider directly involved in the care of vulnerable people can get the vaccine for free. Many others can get the flu vaccination for free too.
And nothing is better than free.