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Many Oregonians have already had their flu shots, but others are hesitant. Vaccination is the best way to prepare and protect yourself from a possible next wave of flu. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, why not?

Myth 1: The flu is no big deal.

Maybe, like many people, you don’t think of the flu as a serious illness. But the fact is, every year in the United States thousands of people die from flu-related complications, and many more are hospitalized. During the 2010-11 flu season, 34 children died in the United States from influenza.

Getting an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, and the people around you, from becoming seriously ill with the flu. Even if you catch a flu strain that isn’t included in this year’s seasonal flu vaccine, your illness will be much less severe than it would if you hadn’t been vaccinated.

Myth 2: Flu shots aren’t worth the hassle.

Maybe you’ve just been too busy to get the vaccine. But it’s more convenient than you might think. You can probably get a shot at your local grocery store or drugstore the next time you’re out running errands. To find a convenient location, use our flu vaccine locator. Also, keep in mind that the flu vaccine can prevent lost work days and keep you from having to visit your doctor -- that’s worth the effort.

Myth 3: Flu shots could make you sick.

One longstanding myth about flu vaccination is that it can give you the flu. This simply isn’t true. A flu shot can’t cause the flu. The viruses in flu shots are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the vaccine during the process of making it, and batches of flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe. In randomized, blinded studies, where some people got flu shots and others got saltwater shots, there were no differences in terms of body aches, fever, cough, runny nose or sore throat.

There are several reasons people might think they got sick from a flu shot. They could’ve been exposed to the flu right before being vaccinated or during the two weeks after the shot before the vaccination takes effect. People might also become ill from other (non-flu) viruses that circulate during the flu season. Or they may be exposed to one of the flu viruses not included in the seasonal flu vaccine. Some people with weakened immune systems can get the flu despite being vaccinated. Even in these cases, however, the vaccine lessens flu severity and helps prevent complications.

Myth 4: I never get the flu.

“I never get the flu” is another common excuse for not getting a shot. It’s true that not everyone gets influenza each year. But you may have it and be contagious without knowing it. Of the 5 percent to 20 percent of the population who get influenza each year, many never develop symptoms. Young, healthy people are especially likely to have influenza infections without feeling ill. They are still contagious. Getting vaccinated lowers your odds of getting sick and protects others in your community.

Millions of Americans get the seasonal flu vaccine each year without any problems. Top doctors and scientists believe the risk of flu, especially for pregnant women, children, and people with underlying health conditions, is higher than any risk that might come from the vaccine.

Vaccine and Autism

There’s also a persistent myth about influenza vaccine and autism. Here are some clarifications, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Flu vaccine does not cause autism.
  • Some influenza vaccines contain a preservative called thimerasol. Thimerasol is processed by the body as ethylmercury, leaving the system in about four days. It sounds similar to methylmercury, which can cause many symptoms of heavy-metal poisoning. Neither of those substances causes autism. There is no evidence that mercury of any type causes autism. 
  • In addition, single-dose vials of influenza vaccine don’t contain thimerasol because they don’t require preservatives.

If you still have questions about getting a flu vaccination, call SafeNet at 211.