you are hesitating to get your annual influenza vaccine, Dr.
Gregory Poland, director of Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research
Group, wants to bust some myths about the flu vaccine that may
help you make your decision.
The vaccine gives you the flu.
"The easy answer is it’s simply not true," says
Poland. "I think what people are referring to when they
say that is, ‘I got the flu shot, and, then, I had symptoms
which reminded me of the same kind of symptoms I get when I’ve
had the flu.’ But the problem is that they’re assuming
that temporality is causality. I’ll give you an example.
When I speak to large audiences, I’ll say — this will be
in August or September (and) nobody’s gotten the flu shot
yet — how many of you have had muscle aches, low-grade
fever, headache, fatigue? And, you know, 40, 50 percent of
them will say they have, but then I ask them, if you had just
gotten a flu shot the day before that, what would you say?
Well, I got it from the flu shot. The point is, you would have
blamed it on the flu vaccine."
People with egg allergies cannot get a flu shot.
"When we say that people with egg allergies can’t get a
flu shot, we have to look at the advance of science over
time," says Poland. "In the past, if somebody had
what’s called an anaphylactic allergic reaction to the flu
shot, which is due to the egg component, they were right. They
couldn’t get it. That is no longer the case. A flu vaccine
contains, if any, low levels of detectable egg protein. We now
have vaccines no longer produced in eggs. Even somebody who
has the worst kind of egg allergy you can imagine can get a
flu shot. We have to give them the right one. We wouldn’t
give them any one, but we’d give them one not made in
too late in the season to get a flu shot.
"Interestingly enough in the U.S., the peak of our
influenza outbreaks are often in the January, February, early
March time frame," says Poland. "So it is, in fact,
never too late. In fact, people will say, well, what about
April, May, June? And I would still give it to them if they’re
traveling, or they’re in an area where there are a lot of
travelers because, remember, the flu season in the southern
hemisphere is the opposite of ours. People are always bringing
influenza to one or the other hemisphere, and sharing it with
advises the best way to stay healthy is get enough sleep, eat
right, exercise and get a flu vaccine.