Why You and Your Family Need to Get the Flu Shot

An article from the UVM Health Network 2019 Flu Education series

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can result in severe illness, hospitalization or even death.

If you are still not convinced, consider these facts.

Is the flu really that bad?

Flu kills. A total of 143 pediatric deaths were reported to CDC during the 2018-2019 season. During the 2017-2018 season, 180 pediatric deaths were reported and approximately 80% of these deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination that season.

The flu virus causes great stress on the body, increasing the risk for additional complications, including pneumonia and heart attacks.

I'm healthy. Why do I need the flu shot?

Flu virus can be spread to others for 1-4 days prior to your noticing any symptoms.

Healthy people are one of the main ways the flu spreads throughout the wider population.

30% of people can get the flu, yet have very mild symptoms and thus don’t realize they have the flu. These people may not call in sick and stay home. Instead, they are at work, running errands, spreading the virus onto phones, keyboards, doorknobs, shopping carts and each other.

Learn more about the many benefits of flu vaccination, and the scientific studies that support them, from the CDC.

If I get the flu vaccine, can I still get sick?

The flu vaccine does not guarantee you won’t get the flu, but it significantly reduces your risk.

Once you get the vaccine, it takes two weeks for antibodies to develop and provide protection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before flu season really gets under way.

You may experience flu-like symptoms from an array of other respiratory illnesses that also circulate during flu season, such as adenovirus, rhinovirus, coronavirus, or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptom.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

While vaccine effectiveness can vary, recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu illness by between 40% and 60% among the overall population.

Brief anecdote: A Navy ship was in port in San Diego when there was a flu outbreak. All 102 crew members had been vaccinated, but 25 still came down with flu. However, compare this to a Chinese boarding school that had an outbreak: none were vaccinated, and 80% of the students got the flu.

There are many factors that determine how well the vaccine protects against flu in a given year. For more information about flu vaccine effectiveness, visit the CDC’s webpage on the subject.

Is the flu vaccine toxic? Can it make me sick?

The flu vaccine contains dead flu virus, which is detected by watchdog cells that recognize it as toxic, and alert the human immune system to develop antibodies.

If you have a little soreness or feel a little off after receiving the flu vaccine, you know these watchdog cells have been activated, and the vaccine has activated your body’s natural immune response.

It is impossible for the flu vaccine to give you flu illness because it does not contain the live virus.

What about formaldehyde? In making the vaccine, formaldehyde is used to kill the flu viruses and then it is almost entirely washed out. What remains is about 100 mcg per vaccine – an insignificant amount. At any one time, your body contains about 13,000 mcg of formaldehyde – some from the environment and some from internal processes.

For more information about ingredients used in the production of vaccines, visit the CDC’s webpage on the subject.