SUNDAY, JUNE 24, 2018

Misconceptions and misinformation about flu vaccines put people at risk

Officials from the Tennessee Department of Health said on Jan. 13 that too many people get contact influenza because of myths and misbeliefs that lead them to avoid getting a flu shot.

TDH said the two most common misconceptions about the flu shot are that it will make a person sick and that the vaccine isn't effective.

"We cannot get the flu from getting the flu vaccine and getting immunized is the best way to protect yourself and others from this very serious illness," TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner said. "With more than half of Tennesseans getting vaccinated last year, I am grateful most of us now understand these simple truths. Those who still believe otherwise or spread misinformation are unfortunately putting themselves and others at greater risk for serious health complications from influenza, including death."

Tennessee Immunization Program Director Kelly Moore said the vaccination administered through a shot does not contain a live virus. The vaccination administered through a nasal spray contains a modified virus that does not cause the flu.

"First, it takes up to two weeks after the vaccine is given before you are protected, so it's possible for someone to get the flu before the vaccine can start offering protection," Moore said. "Although some vaccinated people will still come down with influenza naturally despite vaccination, at this time of year, many others may think they had the flu when they had a flu-like illness caused by something else."

Moore said the effectiveness of vaccines varies from year to year and person to person based on the influenza strain that is the most common. She said the odds of getting the flu are cut in half or better with the vaccination.

"I encourage everyone to consider this: If your doctor told you he or she could give you a shot that would reduce your chances of getting cancer by half, would you want it?" Moore said. "Most of us would. We need to think of flu shots that way."

The TDH also said that people with egg allergies are able to receive the vaccination, but they should discuss their options with their doctor.

Also, the effectiveness of the immunization diminishes over time, and people need to receive a new flu shot every year to ensure they are protected for the season.

Antiviral treatments are available, but they must be started within 48 hours to be effective. Rapid treatment is important for those who are high risk, such as pregnant women, elderly and young children.