7 Flu Vaccine Myths you should stop believing
As the Flu season has begun, it has become apparent at this stage that there has been a worldwide shortfall in supply of Flu vaccine injections this year. From my understanding, there are at least 3 manufacturers of the flu vaccine injection each year. However, this year Sanofi Pasteur seem to be the only manufacturer in our field prepared to take up the challenge. Not alone have they to make their own quota, but they also had to make up for the likely shortfall of the other regular manufacturers; not to mind the heightened demand among the population due to what’s going on around us.
Anyway, I thought it prudent to run through a few of the vaccine myths that are circulating of which I often get asked during a consultation.
So hopefully we here at Pharmhealth can give a non-biased view from a scientific background to put your mind at ease.
Misconception #1: Flu vaccines are useless, since you can still get the flu after you get inoculated.
The flu shot isn’t perfect, but it is an important tool in our health armoury in order to protect us from yearly Flu. There are multiple strains of influenza virus circulating each year, and each year they change. So vaccine developers in conjunction with a committee from the World Health Organisation base their formulas on their best predictions of which strains will be dominant. Last year the Health Surveillance Protection Centre in Ireland measured the vaccines effectiveness at around 70%. While its not always 100% accurate there is usually some cross-protection, which means if you do get the flu, it won’t be nearly as severe. That could save you from being flattened for over a week, having to see a doctor, or, worse, being hospitalized.
The flu shot doesn’t provide complete protection. But even if you do end up with the flu despite getting a shot, it won’t be nearly as severe.
Misconception #2: With everyone social distancing and wearing masks because of COVID-19, flu won’t be an issue this year.
My best estimation is If everyone was practicing social distancing, mask wearing, and hand sanitizing perfectly, then there would be no risk of influenza or COVID-19. However COVID-19 infections had been on the rise since the our level 5 lockdown so clearly we weren’t all doing a perfect job.
Both influenza viruses and coronaviruses are primarily transmitted via respiratory droplets emitted when you cough, sneeze, or talk. Failure to social distance, wear a mask properly (it should cover both the nose and mouth), and wash your hands increases the risk of both COVID-19 and the flu.
It is highly likely we will have a reduced flu season this year but not an eliminated flu season, and a reduced flu season on top of COVID is still scary to us. Not to mind a struggling healthcare system not fit for purpose in even ordinary times! More budget money needs to be put towards healthcare over the next decade but more importantly in the right areas, in order to resolve this scenario or else we will likely be back to square one again.
On week ending 25th October 2020, the Health Surveillance Protection Centre has stated that there is no evidence of flu in circulation as yet. Some evidence of Rhinoviruses (sinus & nasal congestion) & enterovirus (tummy bug) detections have been noted however.
Misconception #3: The flu shot can give you the flu.
Because the flu vaccine injection is made from an inactive virus it is impossible for it to give you the flu.
The flu vaccine is made from inactive virus, so it’s impossible for it to give you the flu. It is possible but not common to have a day of body aches or not feeling well after getting the flu injection, but that’s just your immune system doing what it’s supposed to be doing and nothing compared to the actual flu.
Immunity to the flu isn’t immediate, however. It takes about 10 days after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and for you to become fully protected. It is possible for someone to get the vaccine and then catch the flu before immunity kicks in which may augment your flu but this is purely ill fortune and not catching it from the vaccine.
Misconception #4: The flu shot increases your risk of getting COVID-19.
There is no concrete evidence that getting a flu vaccine makes you more likely to get sick from a coronavirus like the one that causes COVID-19.
You may have heard about a Canadian study published in Vaccine in January 2020 and publicized on social media that found an association between the flu vaccine and four commonly circulating coronaviruses (but not the one that causes COVID-19). That study, though, was later found to be flawed. Another Canadian study, published in the May 2020 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, failed to find any connection between the flu vaccine and increased risk of infection with other respiratory viruses, including seasonal coronaviruses.
It would therefore be tenable to say that getting the Flu vaccine doesn’t make you any more — or any less — likely to get COVID-19
Misconception #6: It’s healthier to get the flu and let your immune system do its job.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing healthy about getting the flu. Most people in my experience who have had the Flu never want to have it again. I’m not talking about a head cold or ‘Man Flu’ but the real Flu. In addition to causing 7 to 10 days of full-on misery, influenza can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia and inflammation of the heart and brain, and even death. It is likely also that those who acquire the Flu are those who do not look after their own health, have underlying health issues or their own immune system may be suppressed and be more vulnerable.
Contrary to what many people think, vaccines don’t weaken your immune system or prevent it from working the way it should. Vaccines actually stimulate your immune system and get it to work in the direction you want it to without getting the actual illness. Getting vaccinated is a much safer choice than getting sick.
Misconception #7: Young, healthy people do not need to worry about the flu.
While it’s true that the flu is most threatening to the very young, the elderly, and people with underlying illnesses or medical conditions, it can cause severe symptoms in anyone. Even healthy children and adults can risk hospitalization or severe complications from a bout of the flu. The HSE and the Government have for the first year enabled pharmacists to give a Flu nasal vaccine to those aged 2-12 years free of charge. It is plausible to think that the best scientists in this country think it’s a good idea for kids to get the vaccine. We are only starting to follow the trend of several other first class healthcare countries who have been doing it for several years.