Blog by Mark Wolfe, Customer Account Representative, GrandView Pharmacy

As senior living facilities are preparing for the upcoming flu season I thought it might be well to address a question and legitimate concern that comes up each and every flu season. Can the flu shot give you the flu?

The short answer is NO!! The medical answer is NO! And the scientific answer is NO, you cannot get influenza (the Flu) by receiving an influenza vaccine injection or shot.

If the answer is such a resounding NO, then why is there so much talk about the shot giving recipients the disease that it is intended to prevent? What is going on here?

The influenza, or flu vaccine, consists of an attenuated, or killed virus. It is used to make the vaccine and it is given to recipients in deep muscle, usually the deltoid area of the upper arm. Some people report having mild reactions to the flu vaccination. Most common side effects are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the site of injection. A low-grade fever, headache, cough, runny nose and muscle aches may also be experienced. However, these usually begin 1- day after receiving the shot and last for 1-2 additional days. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Information Statement, 2019) However, these side effects do not developing the flu! What is occurring, is your body is exhibiting an immune response due to the killed virus being introduced into your body via the shot. An immune response is good news. That means that your body is fighting the weakened virus that was introduced and thus ‘programs’ the immune system to recognize this in the future so as not to develop the disease.

So now you are aware that you CANNOT get the flu from the vaccine. You know that you might experience 2-3 days of discomfort such as achiness, soreness, a slight fever, headache, etc. But you DO NOT have the flu. It might be better to experience a few days of discomfort than becoming infected with the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control between the years 2018 and 2019 there were 531,000 – 647,000 hospitalizations caused by the flu. Of these numbers, 61,200 developed full-blown influenza that resulted in death.

But why might you still feel ill after receiving a flu shot?

  • It takes about two weeks for protection to develop after receiving vaccination; therefore, you may have become infected by someone else prior to the vaccine developing full immunity.
  • You have another type to respiratory illness… such as the common cold, Bronchitis, Gastroenteritis, to name a few.
  • The correct strain of flu failed to be included into this season’s vaccine. Researchers at the CDC invest many hours anticipating what flu strains may enter the USA, but they don’t always get it precise.

Who should get a flu vaccine?

The Centers for Disease Control recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone 6 months of age or older; as well as pregnant women, older adults, young children. For the elderly, 65 years of age or older, those with chronic medical conditions are also at risk of contracting influenza. Various medical conditions suppress or weaken the immune system thus rendering those individuals more susceptible to being infected. Several examples of these chronic medical conditions include:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer and cancer treatments
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney or liver disease
  • Obesity

Who should NOT get the shot?

  • If you are allergic to eggs or egg products (eggs, egg whites & egg yolks)
  • If you have had a severe reaction to previous flu shots
  • If you have ever had Guillain Barre Syndrome (aka: GBS)
  • If you are not feeling well, or are running a fever the day of the immunization

About the Author

Click here to learn more about Mark and the rest of the GrandView team.