Does the Flu Shot Give You the Flu? - The Truth About Influenza Vaccines

We're tackling the biggest flu myth of all time.

Flu shot facts
Getty ImagesTerry Vine
  • The flu shot does not give you the flu say doctors, although a recent survey revealed most parents believe otherwise.
  • You should get immunized as soon as possible for the 2018-2019 flu season, even if you currently feel sick with a cold.
  • An influenza vaccination may reduce your risk of infection by 40% to 60% and help protect other people from contracting the flu as well.
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    Last winter, approximately — including 183 children — died of the flu, the estimates. All told, hospitals admitted about 900,000 patients during the worst influenza season in decades. But even though story after story surfaced involving a previously healthy but unvaccinated child or adult dying, misinformation continues to circulate about this potentially life-saving immunization.

    More than half of parents with children under the age of 18 falsely believe that the flu shot can cause the flu, a conducted by Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital revealed this week. Another 28% of the 700 people questioned also believed that the flu shot causes autism, despite years of scientific research showing the shot's safety and efficacy.

    If you've been putting off getting yourself or your family immunized, don't wait. This year's virus has already caused the death of one child, according to the .

    Here's what you should know before you make an appointment, according to doctors.


    Does the flu shot give you the flu?

    Let's start by clearing this common question up: "The parts of the virus that are used are completely dead, so you cannot get the flu from the flu shot," , MD, a board-certified pediatrician at stated in a press release.

    FACT: Approximately of the children who died from the flu last year had not received a vaccination that season.

    What those inactivated parts still do, however, is signal your body to develop important antibodies that protect against infection. "Your body then builds up immunity — like Pac-Men — in your system," , a pediatrician at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health, explains to GoodHousekeeeping.com. "If the infection comes, your body is already ready to fight it so you either get over the infection without realizing you had it or it is not as bad as it would have been without the immunization."

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    A typical case of the flu can last up to four days, with symptoms like fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, body aches, and chills, so take steps now to minimize any future miserableness.


    So why do I sometimes feel sick after getting the flu shot?

    A few common side effects include soreness at the injection site or a headache, but that's actually a positive thing in most cases. "The reason people can have these effects after the vaccine is that their immune systems are reacting to the foreign substance that has been injected," Dr. Jacobson says. "The reaction is a good sign that the person's immune system is working the way it should."

    The other reason you might feel not too hot after getting is immunized is that you already contracted a cold before you got the shot. "The flu shot does not cause any diseases," Dr. Jacobson adds. "When patients get sick after receiving a flu vaccine, it is because they were coming down with something before receiving the vaccine — not the vaccine itself."

    Doctor applies bandage to preteen girl's arm following an immunization
    Getty ImagesSteve Debenport
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    Speaking of which ... can I get the flu shot when I have a cold?

    No one likes feeling sniffly, but don't let it deter you from getting vaccinated. Dr. Jacobson says most providers still advise coming in unless you have a fever. With all the bugs and viruses that go around each winter, there might never be a time when you're "perfectly" healthy, so it's better not to wait.


    How long does the shot take to work after you get it?

    The immunization takes about two weeks to kick in fully and start shielding you from flu viruses. That's why Dr. Jacobson recommends getting one as soon as possible — usually when the shot becomes available in September or October. "Better late than never" still applies here though — the advises getting one as long as the virus continues circulating, like in January or even later.


    How effective is this year’s flu shot?

    The short answer: It's still too early to tell. The more important answer: You should still get vaccinated. Although the predominant flu virus changes from year to year — or even within the course of a single season — the CDC works with pharmaceutical companies on predicting those strains as best as possible.

    FACT: A flu vaccination can reduce your risk of an influenza infection by about when it's well-matched to the circulating virus.

    Even when the vaccine doesn't correlate as well, the antibodies your body makes in response to the shot may protect against different but similar viruses. Plus, each vaccine includes three or four different kinds of the flu, further shielding your body from a range of infections.

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    That's why the CDC recommends flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older, no matter what strain ends up going around. Getting an immunization not only potentially saves you from several miserable days, but it also helps slow the spread of this highly contagious disease. That means you're helping protect vulnerable people at — like the elderly, pregnant women, and young children — who would have a harder time fighting off an infection.


    Use the to find flu clinics near you, including Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, and Walmart. Health insurances are to fully cover immunizations without copays, but may limit where you can receive it. If you aren't covered, offers the vaccine for $41.

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