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Myths and Facts About Influenza (Flu)

Myth: Flu vaccines can cause flu.

Fact: Flu vaccines are made with flu viruses that are either weakened, inactivated (killed), or recombinant (made without influenza viruses or eggs). Therefore, flu vaccines cannot cause flu. It typically takes 2 weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective and during those 2 weeks, it is still possible for an individual to get flu or another respiratory virus.

Myth: Flu vaccination is not necessary each year.

Fact: Immunity from the flu vaccine declines over time, so annual vaccination is critical to provide the best protection. And since the vaccine may change each year to match circulating flu viruses, it is important to get vaccinated annually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual vaccination for all individuals age 6 months and older.

Myth: Healthy people don’t need a flu vaccine.

Fact: Anyone can get the flu; even young, healthy people are at risk. Getting vaccinated each year is important for everyone age 6 months and older, even healthy people. And vaccination can help prevent the spread of the virus to others who may be vulnerable to flu and related complications.

Myth: The flu is nothing more than just a bad cold.

Fact: Flu is not just a bad cold—it can be far more serious, and can cause high fever, headaches and body aches, chills, and severe fatigue for up to 2 weeks or more. Flu can also lead to more serious complications and even death. In the US, millions of people get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands die from flu every year.

Myth: There is nothing you can do if you get the flu.

Fact: Know the symptoms. If you, your child, or a loved one gets sick, contact a healthcare professional immediately to discuss treatment options. Prescription antiviral drugs can make the illness milder, make you feel better faster, and may also prevent serious flu-related complications.

Myth: Vaccines can be dangerous and may have adverse health effects.

Fact: Almost all individuals who get vaccinated against flu do not experience serious side effects. Some may experience a sore arm at the injection site. Those who receive a flu vaccine may experience fever, muscle pain, and feelings of discomfort or weakness. These side effects typically last 1-2 days after vaccination and are much less severe than actual flu illness. The risk of a flu vaccine causing serious harm or death is extremely small.


October 2020

Additional Resources

Flu and COVID-19 Resources

Annual flu vaccination can help protect individuals and prevent additional strain on an already overburdened healthcare system

Influenza (Flu) Treatment

Certain antiviral drugs can help reduce symptoms of influenza (flu), shorten the duration of illness, and prevent complications