Your flu vaccine questions answered

We know there is the internet is full of information about whether to get a flu vaccine. We believe it is important for overall health and well-being during the lengthy North Carolina flu season. The season officially began on October 1, and North Carolina already has one reported death from the flu. 

Why should people get the flu vaccine?

Whether you’re generally healthy or have chronic medical issues, the flu vaccine benefits most people. It’s especially important for those who have regular interaction with young children, the chronically ill, or the elderly as those two populations suffer more serious complications, sometimes death. While it’s less common, even healthy adults can suffer severe complications or death from the flu. 

Beyond illness, those who get the flu miss many days of work or school as the virus runs its course. The economic effect of flu is significant, costing Americans more than $10 billion in lost revenue in 2011. Add the cost of doctor visits or hospitalization and the economic impact grows.

The earlier in the season you get a flu shot, the greater your protection. Since the virus is already circulating in North Carolina, it’s just a matter of time before you’re exposed. The more people who get the flu shot — and the earlier — the less risk there is to the community overall. 

How do flu vaccines work?

The flu vaccine does not contain active flu virus. Flu vaccines trick your body into creating antibodies to the flu. It takes about two weeks for those antibodies to fully develop. Despite what some say, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. The flu vaccine is not made from active flu virus. 

Then why do I feel so awful after the flu vaccine?

When you get the vaccine, your body’s defenses go into overdrive creating the antibodies to fight the flu. As that germ-fighting army grows, you might feel achy or even suffer a low grade fever. That means the flu vaccine is working on your behalf. You should feel completely normal again within 1-2 days. Also, not everyone gets these symptoms. That doesn’t mean the vaccine isn’t working — it just might be less aggravating to your system.

I’ve heard of people getting the flu from their shot. How is that possible?

The later in the flu season you get a vaccine, the more flu there is in the general population. Many people get their flu shot after a co-worker or family member comes down with the flu. Also, it’s possible to get the flu from someone in the community, at church, at the store or at a restaurant. If you’ve been sufficiently exposed, the virus is already revving up to make you sick. The flu shot didn’t do it — waiting too long to get the vaccine allowed the flu to find you first.