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Busting the flu jab myths

11 December 2019

Health experts say that the best protection against getting the flu is to have the seasonal flu vaccine. Adults over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with long-term health conditions and frontline health and social care workers all have a higher risk of catching the flu and are entitled to a free flu jab.

However, there are a number of popular myths about the flu and flu vaccine which puts some people off from having the jab. Dr Sarah Whiteman, Medical Director for the Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Commissioning Collaborative, addresses these misconceptions and gives you the facts.  

The flu jab can give you the flu.

This is a myth. The flu vaccine given to adults as an injection contains inactivated flu viruses, so it can’t cause flu. Although the nasal vaccine used to protect children does contain live flu viruses, they are so weakened your child will not get flu from having it.

The flu vaccine can cause serious side-effects.

No it doesn’t. The arm in which you have the injection may feel sore or you may notice a rise in temperature and your limbs may ache slightly, but these minor side-effects soon pass. You should only avoid having the flu vaccination if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction to it in the past, although this is very rare.

Pregnant women shouldn’t have the flu jab because it will harm their unborn babies.

On the contrary, expectant mothers at any stage of pregnancy should have the flu jab. Pregnant women are one of the groups who are at most risk of being seriously ill if they get flu. Having the flu vaccination not only protects the mother, it will protect her baby from flu in the first months of life.

Taking a vitamin C supplement every day will protect against the flu.

No it won’t. There is no evidence that suggests a daily dose of vitamin C will protect you against the flu.  

I was vaccinated last year, so I’m still protected.

Unfortunately you’re not. There are many different strains of the influenza virus and each year a vaccine is developed to protect people against the strain most likely to affect the population during the flu season. That is why you need to have the flu jab every year.

It’s not safe to give the flu vaccine to children.

This is another myth. The flu vaccine has an excellent safety record in children and this year it’s being made available to all children of primary school age. Children are not always too careful about hygiene when sneezing and coughing, so are often the reason for the flu virus spreading. Vaccinating children not only protects them from catching the flu, it helps limit its spread. 

The flu is just a heavy cold.

No it’s not. Although both are viral infections with similar symptoms, a cold is a mild illness that will generally pass in seven to ten days; the flu is a much more dangerous virus that can lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, meningitis and encephalitis. That is why it’s important to have the flu jab to protect yourself and your family, and to help stop this highly contagious illness from spreading.

For more information visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/flu-influenza-vaccine/ 


For more information contact 01525 624440




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