Common concerns about the flu vaccine

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Flu season usually starts in late November or early December, so now is the perfect time to get your flu vaccine.  It takes about two weeks for the immunity to kick in, so you may still be vulnerable when flu season starts if you wait much longer.  Still not sure?  Let me address some of the common concerns people have about the flu vaccine:

Can I get the flu from the vaccine?

The nasal spray version of the vaccine has weakened virus that can cause an infection in people with a weakened immune system from AIDS or chemotherapy for cancer.  However, the shot only has proteins from the outside of the virus and contains no live virus, so it cannot give you an infection.

Since it takes two weeks to become immune, if you get exposed to the flu less than two weeks after you get the vaccine, you can still catch the disease.  If this happens, it won’t be because you got the shot!  It will be because you waited too long to get it.

Will the vaccine work?

The flu virus comes in different varieties or “strains”.  Each year we try to come up with a vaccine that will cover the strains most likely affect people that year.  Some years the vaccine works better than others.    So it is possible to get the flu even if you have been vaccinated.  But, the vaccine will still give you some protection and you won’t get as sick as you would have without it.

What are the side effects?

The most common side effects are pain and redness at the injection site, fever, and some muscle aches.  The pain and redness at the injection site are about what you would expect from any shot and don’t last long.  The fever and muscle aches are signs that your immune system is working and responding to the shot.  They are much milder and shorter lived than the similar symptoms caused by the flu itself.  It is also possible to have an allergic reaction to the flu shot, especially if you are allergic to eggs.  Overall, you are in more danger from the flu itself than from possible side effects to the flu shot.

What if I am pregnant?

The flu vaccine is safe and highly recommended for pregnant women.  Getting the flu while pregnant could be bad for the baby but the vaccine is not.

 But I never get sick.

I hear this a lot as a reason not to get the flu shot.  Some lucky people get the flu and don’t even know they have it.  They can still pass it on to others.  We give the flu shot younger, healthy people so that they will not be able to infect young babies and the elderly.  You probably won’t die from the flu, but you could pass it on to someone who does.  Consider getting the vaccine your good deed of the day.  If you aren’t concerned about protecting yourself, get it to protect your family and your community.

Alexander Borun, MD practices at Regional Physicians Family Medicine in North High Point. He is board certified in Family Medicine, with more than ten years of experience and specializes in smoking cessation and cholesterol management. Dr. Borun graduated from Harvard University and completed his medical degree from Autonoma University of Madrid in Spain. He completed his Family Medicine residency at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is bilingual and invites both English and Spanish speaking families to make an appointment to visit him. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Borun, please call (336) 884-6000.

 

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