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Let's just debunk every flu-vaccine myth in one fell swoop, shall we?

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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. Remember: if you're going to argue with an anti-vaxxer, it's important to know your stuff.

Top photo by Karoly Arvai via Reuters

"I could be wrong," writes science journalist Tara Haelle, who compiled the list, "but I'd venture to guess there is more nonsense and misinformation about the flu vaccine than any other vaccine out there." To limit the spread of that misinformation, Haelle decided to write a comprehensive post addressing every flu-vaccine myth she could dig up.


The result was an exhaustive, point-by-point rebuttal to 25 myths, complete with over 100 citations, more than half of which link to peer-reviewed studies in medical research journals. (The others, she writes, "are to explanations of concepts such as herd immunity and ethylmercury, to other blog posts or news stories or to CDC and FDA webpages.") She then collected all 25 myths into a nice, compact reference list full of links to each myth's debunking explanation. Here, republished by kind permission, is said list in all its glory:

Myth #1: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick. (No, it doesn't.)

Myth #2: Flu vaccines contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze. (Not exactly, and the ingredients aren't dangerous.)

Myth #3: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot. (They should.) / The flu shot can cause miscarriages. (It doesn't.) / Pregnant should only get the preservative-free flu shot. (Nope.)

Myth #4: Flu vaccines can cause Alzheimer's disease. (They can't.)

Myth #5: Flu vaccines provide billions of dollars in profits for pharmaceutical companies. (Maybe, maybe not, but so what?)

Myth #6: Flu vaccines don't work. (Um, they do work.)

Myth #7: Flu vaccines don't work for children. (Again, they work.)

Myth #8: Flu vaccines make it easier for people to catch pneumonia or other infectious diseases. (No, they make it harder.)

Myth #9: Flu vaccines cause vascular or cardiovascular disorders. (No, they don't.)

Myth #10: Flu vaccines can break the "blood brain barrier" of young children and hurt their development. (No, they can't.)

Myth #11: Flu vaccines cause narcolepsy. (Not the seasonal flu vaccine, and not most others.)

Myth #12: The flu vaccine weakens your body's immune response. (It actually strengthens it.)

Myth #13: The flu vaccine causes nerve disorders such as Guillain Barre syndrome. (Not usually, and not as much as the flu does.)

Myth #14: The flu vaccine can cause neurological disorders. (No, it can't.)

Myth #15: Influenza isn't that bad. Or, people recover quickly from it. (Uh, it's pretty bad.)

Myth #16: People don't die from the flu unless they have another underlying condition already. (Actually, healthy people DO die from the flu.)

Myth #17: People with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot. It will kill them! (No, it won't, and there's an egg-free vaccine.)

Myth #18: If I get the flu, antibiotics will take care of me. (No, they can't.)

Myth #19: The flu shot doesn't work for me, personally, because last time I got it, I got the flu anyway. (It still reduces your risk.)

Myth #20: I never get the flu, so I don't need the shot. (You can see the future?)

Myth #21: I can protect myself from the flu by eating right and washing my hands regularly. (No, you can't.)

Myth #22: It's okay if I get the flu because it will make my immune system stronger. (Selfish, much? And no, it doesn't.)

Myth #23: Making a new vaccine each year only makes influenza strains stronger. (No, it doesn't.)

Myth #24: The side effects of the flu shot are worse than the flu. (No, they aren't.)

Myth #25: The flu vaccine causes Bell's palsy. (No, it doesn't.)

This list, writes Haelle, is long overdue. We couldn't agree more. Read her post. Bookmark it. Send it to a friend. Send it to a new mom. Of all the listicles you encounter on Internet this week, let this be the one you remember best, for as this recent strip from Abstruse Goose points out, it is of paramount importance, when assuming the role of Debunker, to have more compelling points and evidence at one's disposal than "because science."


You can follow Tara Haelle on twitter. For more reading on smart, sensible, evidence-based parenting, visit her blog, or check out Carnival of Evidence Based Parenting on Facebook.