Every year, people come up with various excuses for why they shouldn’t get the flu shot.
Dr. Robert Krauth, M.D., a Saint Thomas Health primary care physician specializing in pediatrics and family medicine, has heard his share. Saint Thomas Health is part of Ascension, the largest non-profit health system in the U.S.
“The excuses people use for not getting the flu shot are often based on incorrect medical information or myths, but I’ve seen the real-life health consequences that people suffer by not getting their yearly flu shot,” he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that last year influenza vaccination prevented approximately 5.1 million influenza illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits and 71,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
Dr. Krauth explains how more people getting vaccinated against the flu is better for the wellbeing of the community as a whole: “Community immunity is when the vaccinated community protects those who aren’t immunized. The more people who get vaccinated for the flu, the more people will be protected from it.”
Dr. Krauth counters the top excuses for not getting the flu shot:
Excuse #1: I got the flu vaccine last year, so I should still be immune this year.
Fact: Immunity from the flu vaccine doesn’t “wear off,” but the vaccine must be reformulated every year in an effort to match the most common circulating strains – that’s why you should get the flu shot every year.
Excuse #2: I’m scared of needles. I’ve read that the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine is equally effective.
Fact: The CDC doesn’t recommend the nasal spray flu vaccine this year because of concerns about its effectiveness. Last year, the spray’s effectiveness was just 3 percent, versus 63 percent for the shot. If your child is scared of needles, ask the pediatrician if a numbing cream can be applied to the area before getting the shot.
Excuse #3: The flu vaccine will give me the flu.
Fact: The flu is caused by a live virus. You can’t get the flu from the shot because the vaccine contains viruses that are inactivated or severely weakened.
Excuse #4: I hear the flu vaccine can be dangerous for children.
Fact: A CDC study published in Pediatrics found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 51 percent among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions and by nearly two-thirds 65 percent among healthy children.
Excuse #5: If I get the flu, I can take antibiotics to get better.
Fact: Since the flu is a viral infection, it can’t be treated with antibiotics.
Excuse #6: I got the flu shot last year, and I still got the flu.
Fact: The flu shot cannot offer 100 percent protection against the flu, but it can reduce your risk of getting it and reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations.
Experts recommend everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Flu vaccinations are particularly important for people who are at a high risk of serious complications from influenza, including young children, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses.