Debunking 5 flu shot myths

Why the flu vaccine should be No. 1 on your holiday checklist

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Flu season is underway in North Carolina, with confirmed cases throughout the state last month, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The department reported that ours was among the first state in the nation last season to see the flu. That’s why, as The Wilson Times reported last month: prevention is key.

With the holidays upon us, many Wilson residents are either planning to fly to see family and friends, or host them here at home. Travel, big gatherings and dipping temperatures are prime conditions for passing germs. That’s why we should be sure to remember the most important item on our holiday checklist: the flu vaccine.

In preparation for flu season, Walgreens has launched a campaign in Wilson to encourage folks in our community to get their flu vaccine. For every vaccination administered at your local Wilson Walgreens pharmacy, Walgreens will donate the value of a lifesaving vaccine to people in developing countries as part of our Get a Shot, Give a Shot campaign with the UN Foundation, which has provided more than 20 million polio and measles vaccines.

Even though many insurance programs cover vaccinations, as does Medicare Part B — often with no or little out-of-pocket cost — some may still be on the fence about, or feel too busy to get, the flu vaccine. For those of you, Walgreens has debunked these common flu vaccine myths:

Myth No. 1:You can get sick from the flu vaccine.

FACT: The flu vaccine isn’t manufactured with a live virus, so it cannot cause the flu. Sometimes patients may be exposed to the flu or other virus before receiving the vaccine, which can take up to two weeks to become fully effective. When someone gets sick, they mistakenly believe the vaccine was the cause. But that’s not the case. The most common side effects from the influenza vaccine are soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the injection and, in some cases, a low-grade fever, headache or muscle-ache.

Myth No. 2: The flu vaccine isn’t always effective.

FACT: Simply put, the flu vaccine is the best protection you can get. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system to make antibodies, which can recognize and attack that specific strain of virus inside the body. The vaccine greatly reduces the chances of contracting the virus and, if contracted, may make the symptoms milder. It’s important to note that most flu vaccinations protect against strains that are respiratory in nature, not gastrointestinal, so if you still get the “stomach bug,” it doesn’t necessarily mean your vaccine was ineffective. Getting vaccinated may also help protect people around you who have a greater risk of serious illness, such as elderly people, patients with chronic conditions, pregnant women and young children.

Myth No. 3: There’s no point in getting the flu vaccine if it’s later in the flu season.

FACT: Getting the flu vaccine, even later in the season, can still be beneficial. Oftentimes, there is a delay in the onset of the virus in different parts of the country. In recent years, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, we’ve seen peak flu as late as January or even February. Because flu viruses are always changing, it’s important to get the flu vaccine as soon as possible.

Myth No. 4: Everyone receives the same type of flu vaccine.

FACT: Each year, the seasonal influenza vaccine includes the strains that researchers found will be most prevalent throughout the season. This year, there is again an option for a Trivalent (three-strain) vaccine, which protects from the three most common flu strains, or the Quadrivalent (four-strain) vaccine, which includes one additional strain. There are also immune-boosting influenza vaccines for those age 65 and above, and preservative-free versions for pregnant women or those who are allergic to mercury.

Myth No. 5: Flu vaccines are only for really sick people.

FACT: Influenza certainly does not discriminate. It can cause serious complications or illness for those with chronic conditions, and healthy individuals are just as likely to catch the flu virus. Some people never show any signs of flu symptoms and may act as carriers of the virus, infecting their loved ones. In short, prevention is always better than cure; the best defense against the flu is to get an annual flu vaccine.

Cheryl Harrington is a Walgreens pharmacist in Wilson.