Can You Get the Flu From a Flu Shot?
Flu Season Is Here
Flu shots take about two weeks to provide protection. Discover 3 easy ways to get your flu shot at Ochsner.
Can You Get the Flu from a Flu Shot?
There's a common belief that getting the flu vaccine can actually give you the flu and many people use it as a reason to avoid the shot. However, it is not possible to get the flu from the flu shot. While some people do get sick after being vaccinated, it's not from the vaccine itself. The most common side effect of the flu shot is simply a sore arm.
More than 60% of patients report having a sore arm after flu vaccine. This is usually very minor and can be reduced by using moist heat and an over-the-counter pain reliever.
How Do Vaccines Work?
Vaccines, such as the flu shot, use a dead version of the viruses, also called inactivated vaccines. For the flu 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. However, 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 just the body's immune response kicking in. There are several reasons why people link getting a flu shot with getting sick. The most likely reason is that the person who got vaccinated came down with a different kind of respiratory virus, not the flu.
Protection from the Flu
Getting a flu vaccine will not protect against COVID-19, however flu vaccination has many other important benefits. Flu vaccines have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death. Getting a flu vaccine this fall will be more important than ever, not only to reduce your risk from flu but also to help conserve potentially scarce health care resources due to the COVID pandemic.
While it’s not possible to say with certainty what will happen in the fall and winter, CDC believes it’s likely that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading. In this context, getting a flu vaccine will be more important than ever. CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccine. The CDC states you can get a COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines, such as the flu shot, at the same visit. Experience with other vaccines has shown that the way our bodies develop protection, known as an immune response, after getting vaccinated and possible side effects of vaccines are generally the same when given alone or with other vaccines.
Patients should get their flu shot at their most convenient source, either through Primary Care, Urgent Care or their closest pharmacy.
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.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 28, 2020. and has since been updated.