Every Single Flu Vaccine Myth, Debunked

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Here for sharing far and wide is a collection of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding flu vaccines, debunked point-by-point with lucid, thoroughly referenced explanations.

So far this year, Ebola has upstaged the flu and stolen most of the headlines about a killer virus. But flu season has not really quite begun just yet, so it remains to be seen which one will dominate the media throughout the winter. What's ironic is that the flu kills more people in one year – in the U.S. alone – than Ebola has killed ever, in history, worldwide.

But I'm already getting ahead of myself – I've bumped Ebola to #1 on this year's list – so let's get to it with two quick, important notes: First, for those who prefer to do their own research, I've provided all my sources in hyperlinks. More than half of these go directly to peer-reviewed medical research, and a fair number go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.


Second, but very important: I am a science journalist but not a medical doctor or other health care professional. I've compiled research here to debunk common myths about the flu vaccine. You should always consult a reliable, trusted medical professional with questions that pertain specifically to you. For the CDC recommendations on the 2014-2015 flu vaccines (including information on which vaccines pregnant women, the elderly and children under 2 should *not* get), please consult the CDC flu vaccine recommendations directly. There are indeed people who should *not* get the flu vaccine.

Myth #1: You should fear Ebola more than the flu.

Fact: The flu poses greater risk to you than Ebola.

Myth #2: You don't need the flu vaccine this year if you got it last year.

Fact: You need a new flu shot each year.

Myth #3: The flu shot is a "one size fits all" approach that doesn't make sense for everyone.

Fact: You have many flu vaccine options.

Myth #4: People die from the flu shot.

Fact: There have been no confirmed deaths from the flu shot.

Myth #5: Deaths from the flu are exaggerated.

Fact: Thousands of people die from flu in a typical year.

Myth #6: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick.

Fact: The flu shot can't give you the flu.

Myth #7: Flu vaccines contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze.

Fact: Flu shot ingredients are safe.

Myth #8: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot. The flu shot can cause miscarriages. Pregnant should only get the preservative-free flu shot.

Fact: Pregnant women should get the flu shot. Fact: The flu shot reduces miscarriage risk. Fact: Pregnant women can get any inactivated flu vaccine.

Myth #9: Flu vaccines can cause Alzheimer's disease.

Fact: There is no link between Alzheimer's disease and the flu vaccine; flu vaccines protect older adults.

Myth #10: Pharmaceutical companies make a massive profit off flu vaccines.

Fact: They're a tiny source of pharma profit.

Myth #11: Flu vaccines don't work.

Fact: Flu vaccines reduce the risk of flu.

Myth #12: Flu vaccines don't work for children.

Fact: Flu vaccines reduce children's risk of flu.

Myth #13: Flu vaccines make it easier for people to catch pneumonia or other infectious diseases.

Fact: Flu vaccines reduce the risk of pneumonia and other illnesses.

Myth #14: Flu vaccines cause vascular or cardiovascular disorders.

Fact: Flu shots reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

Myth #15: Flu vaccines can break the "blood brain barrier" of young children, hindering their development.

Fact: Flu vaccines have been found safe for children 6 months and older.

Myth #16: Flu vaccines cause narcolepsy.

Fact: The U.S. seasonal flu vaccine does not cause narcolepsy.

Myth #17: The flu vaccine weakens your body's immune response.

Fact: The flu vaccine prepares your immune system to fight influenza.

Myth #18: The flu vaccine causes nerve disorders such as Guillain Barre syndrome.

Fact: Influenza is more likely than the flu shot to cause Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Myth #19: The flu vaccine can make you walk backwards or cause other neurological disorders.

Fact: Neurological side effects linked to flu vaccination are extremely rare (see Myth #18), but influenza can cause neurological complications.

Myth #20: Influenza isn't that bad. Or, people recover quickly from it.

Fact: Influenza knocks most people down *hard*.

Myth #21: People don't die from the flu unless they have another underlying condition already.

Fact: Otherwise healthy people DO die from the flu.

Myth #22: People with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot.

Fact: People with egg allergies can get a flu shot.

Myth #23: If I get the flu, antibiotics will take care of me.

Fact: Antibiotics can't treat a viral infection.

Myth #24: The flu shot doesn't work for me, personally, because last time I got it, I got the flu anyway.

Fact: The flu shot cannot guarantee you won't get the flu, but it reduces your risk.

Myth #25: I never get the flu, so I don't need the shot.

Fact: You can't predict whether you'll get the flu.

Myth #26: I can protect myself from the flu by eating right and washing my hands regularly.

Fact: A good diet and good hygiene alone cannot prevent the flu.

Myth #27: It's okay if I get the flu because it will make my immune system stronger.

Fact: The flu weakens your immune system while your body is fighting it and puts others at risk.

Myth #28: If I do get the flu, I'll just stay home so I'm not infecting others.

Fact: You can transmit the flu without showing symptoms.

Myth #29: Making a new vaccine each year only makes influenza strains stronger.

Fact: There's no evidence flu vaccines have a major effect on virus mutations.

Myth #30: The side effects of the flu shot are worse than the flu.

Fact: The flu is worse than flu shot side effects.

Myth #31: The "stomach flu" is the flu.

Fact: The "stomach flu" is a generic term for gastrointestinal illnesses unrelated to influenza.

Myth #32: If you haven't gotten a flu shot by November, there's no point in getting one.

Fact: Getting the flu shot at any time during flu season will reduce your risk of getting the flu.

Myth #33: The flu vaccine causes Bell's palsy.

Fact: The flu shot does not cause Bell's palsy.