Allercy and Asthma Health
The Official Publication of AAN - MA

"Flu Shot Gives Patient Flu" — Not True!

Flu Shot

by Carol Proctor, RRT, RPFT

How often do we hear grandmother or see a Facebook post beg off getting the influenza vaccination because they are adamant it gives them the flu? And yet anyone who works with chronically ill or immune-compromised patients knows that this is an important way to avoid or minimize flu and even death. Let’s talk about facts to dispel the fiction: 

  1. “No, Grandma, the vaccination did not give you the flu.” Here’s why: the flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection. If a person does become ill, they had already been infected before getting the shot. If they are already feeling ill or have a fever, vaccination should be delayed; your health care provider will ask you how you feel before administering your flu shot.
  2. Pregnancy is not a restriction because it protects both mother and her baby once it is born.
  3. It is important for both at-risk people and their caregivers to be inoculated. At-risk people include those with asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, pregnant women, children younger than 5 years old and especially those under 2, age 65 or older, or those with chronic congestive heart failure. Besides pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, and ear infections, people who have asthma may experience worsening asthma symptoms and cardiac patients may have arrhythmias and worsening of chronic congestive heart failure.
  4. While early fall vaccination is desirable to get those important two weeks for the body to be prepared to fight flu, there are benefits to getting it in December or January. This is important to remember for someone who may have been ill during the early vaccination period and unable to get the flu shot.  People often forget the season goes all the way through May and not just the fall and winter months.
  5. Healthy children need protection from flu viruses. Unfortunately, otherwise healthy children die from flu complications. The Centers for Disease Control recommends for the 2014-2015 flu season that healthy children 2–8 years old receive the nasal spray vaccine if it is immediately available. But, rather than delay vaccination, they should receive the traditional vaccine.
  6. In an effort to make vaccination available, there are many opportunities outside the traditional physician office to receive the vaccine. These include at your local pharmacy, clinic, or even drive-through in some areas. Look online or in your local newspaper for vaccination sites. Some are low cost and some are free; these may be limited to certain ages or those without complicating medical conditions. Even if you need to see your physician and feel that is inconvenient, think how inconvenient it would be to get the flu during your fall or winter holiday gatherings. 
  7. The nasal spray has a live, weakened flu vaccine, so it is only live in the nose. In the warmer areas of the body, such as the lungs, it no longer lives. This form of vaccine can only be used for healthy people from ages 2-49 who are not pregnant.
  8. There is a vaccine for those ages 18-49 with egg sensitivities. Also there is an intradermal that uses a smaller needle under the skin rather than in the muscle, but it is only for ages 18-64. 

By getting the influenza vaccination, you protect not only yourself but also those you love. The best gift we give our families is to stay healthy so we can spend time enjoying our time together. •

Carol A. Proctor, RRT RPFT, is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and Pulmonary Function Technology in Clearwater, FL, and an AARC member.
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