Can I get the flu from a flu shot?

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Q: I don’t want the flu shot because it always gives me the flu.  Is it okay not to get vaccinated?

A: Here are a facts to consider:

1. Injected influenza vaccine is an inactivated viral vaccine, meaning that there is no living influenza in the injection.  Therefore, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine.   This is a commonly held misbelief, in part because people commonly get upper respiratory illnesses in the winter months that they attribute to the vaccine.

2. The influenza vaccine is designed to protect against the most likely flu strains to appear in the upcoming season.  Against those strains, the vaccine is 70-90% effective in prevent infection.  If a different strain appears in the community, which is possible, then the vaccine may not protect against that one.

3. Nearly all vaccines can cause a brief period of low grade fever and body aches in the 1-2 days following vaccination, along with some discomfort in the injection site.  The fever and aches are due to your immune system responding to the vaccine (although the absence of these symptoms doesn’t mean the vaccine didn’t work), so in essence, this is a good thing.

All in all, the benefits of this vaccine greatly outweigh the risks.  Come see us if you have more questions, or are interested in getting the flu vaccine.   It is fully covered for those of you on the Comprehensive Student Health Insurance Plan, and several other insurance plans are covering it, too.  

Check out our Events Calendar for upcoming walk-in flu vaccine programs. 

Good Health!

Roger Miller, MD (OSU Student Health Services)