Can You Get the Flu From a Flu Shot?

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Flu Season Is Here

Flu shots take about two weeks to provide protection. Discover 4 easy ways to get your flu shot at Ochsner.

There's a belief that getting the flu vaccine can actually give you the flu and many people use it as a reason to avoid the shot. Doctors say it's impossible. While some people do get sick after being vaccinated, it's not from the vaccine. The most common side effect is a sore arm from the shot.

More than 60% of patients report having a sore arm after flu vaccine . This is usually a nuisance and can be reduced by using moist heat and an over-the-counter pain reliever.

How Do Vaccine Work?

Vaccines in flu shots use killed viruses, also called inactivated vaccines. For the influenza vaccine, chemical inactivation is used to 'kill,' or make the virus inactive and noninfectious. Enough of the proteins on the virus' shell are left intact to trigger an immune response. The body recognizes the proteins as a danger and produces white blood cells to attack any matching flu virus, but those proteins aren't enough for the virus to reproduce and infect a person who's been vaccinated.

Some people develop mild body aches, fatigue, muscle pain and a low fever, but it's the body's immune response kicking in.

There are several reasons why people link getting a flu shot with getting sick. Most likely is that the person who got vaccinated came down with a different kind of respiratory virus, not the flu.

Protection from the Flu

Although the flu vaccine can't give you the flu, it is possible to get the flu after you've been vaccinated. The vaccine protects against certain flu strains like H2N3, H1N1 and influenza B. If you have the misfortune of being exposed to a different flu strain, the vaccine can't protect you.

Flu strains change all the time. The flu that’s keeping your family member laid up, might not be the same one that made your kids sick this year. That’s because flu viruses are always changing. They can vary from year to year. They can even change in the middle of a flu season.

Be sure to go out and spread the word about why most people should receive the flu vaccine each year. It’s a simple way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Please discuss any health questions or concerns you may have with a medical professional. It’s definitely worth a shot.

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