Flu Shot: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong

shotWant to make a doctor's head explode? Confidently assert that you won't get the flu shot because it gives you the flu. Or complain that it gave you or your kids a cold, a stomach bug, or pretty much anything else.

Here's the deal, folks: The flu shot does not give you the flu. End of story, done, over, amen. If you get sick afterward, you had already been exposed to whatever it is you have.

Old flu vaccines sometimes had side effects that felt like mild flu symptoms, but that's not the case for today's flu vaccine. At worst you'll have a sore arm. If you get the shot today and get sick tomorrow or the next day, you had those germs working their evil magic well before you got the shot.


Flu vaccines, after all, protect you against one thing: The flu. It's not a magic bullet that wards off all disease.

You can't get the flu from a flu shot because it uses dead virus cells, which are, well, dead, so they can't harm you. Your body still forms antibodies to the virus, but the virus itself can't grow and cause its oh-so-fun symptoms.

The nasal mist vaccine uses live virus, but it's been genetically engineered in such a way that it won't make you sick, either.

It is true that if vaccine makers guessed wrong, and a different strain of the flu than those included in that year's vaccine gets around (like H1N1 did) you can get that strain of the flu. And some people with compromised immune systems don't get full immunity from the flu shot; however, they'll have far fewer complications if they get vaccinated.

It's true that healthy young adults will likely recover from the flu just fine, but I certainly don't have time or inclination to be laid up feeling terrible for a week. I can't imagine that you do either.

Have you had your flu shot yet?

Image via USACE Europe District/Flickr

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