For a variety of reasons, some people are reluctant to get the flu shot. What are the beliefs behind this resistance?
The flu vaccine and the influence of beliefs
Are you familiar with the flu? If you've ever been affected by this viral infection, you know just how sick it can make you feel. High fever, persistent cough, headache, muscle aches, general malaise and significant fatigue are some of the classic symptoms. Every year in Canada, the flu causes hospitalizations and, unfortunately, sometimes death.
The flu vaccine is an effective and recommended protective measure to avoid the sometimes severe impact of the flu. Although vaccination is accessible and safe, many people refuse it or do not consider it. Certain persistent and often unfounded beliefs, prevent a large number of people from taking this measure, which could help them maintain their health.
Here are ten examples of such beliefs and some clarifications.
“I am in good health, so I do not need to be vaccinated.”
The flu virus makes no distinction when it comes to infecting a person. It can infect anyone, even healthy people. That said, some individuals may be at greater risk of complications from the flu because of their age, health, chronic illness or a weakened immune system. Getting vaccinated also reduces your chances of getting the disease and therefore helps protect those who cannot get the vaccine and those who have had a poorer response to the vaccine.
“I can get the flu even if I've been vaccinated, so why should I get the flu shot?”
It is true that vaccination does not guarantee total (100%) protection against the virus. The composition of vaccines varies each year depending on the main circulating strains of the virus. If you are infected with a strain other than those targeted by the vaccine you have received, you may get the flu, but the intensity and duration of symptoms will be reduced.
“If I get the flu shot, I will have significant side effects.”
Vaccines, like drugs, can sometimes cause side effects. In the case of the influenza vaccine, the effects are usually mild and transient. They may include pain at the injection site, mild fever and muscle aches. If you find these symptoms unpleasant, remember that the flu can cause intense symptoms for several days and the impact can be severe.
Public health authorities agree that the benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk of possible side effects.
“I've been told that the flu vaccine can actually cause the flu.”
This is simply not true, but this myth continues to circulate. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu because it is made up of fragments of the virus that have been inactivated. Moreover, it cannot transmit any other disease.
“With all the health measures that I am implementing, I don't need to be vaccinated.”
It is true that handwashing, the use of hand sanitizer, respiratory etiquette, physical distancing and wearing a mask are measures that can help reduce the spread of viruses. However, they are not guaranteed. Vaccination remains the best way to protect against the flu virus.
“I don't need to be vaccinated, as I received the vaccine last year.”
The vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, and it provides protection for at least six months (duration varies from one person to another). However, its effectiveness does not last until the next flu season and virus strains change from year to year, so you should be vaccinated annually.
“The flu vaccine can cause diseases such as autism.”
This is an old belief based on old data. In the past, thimerosal was commonly used in vaccines, and it was believed that this preservative was associated with the development of various health problems, including autism. Numerous studies have shown that there is ultimately no link between exposure to thimerosal and autism.
“The flu vaccine can weaken my immune system.”
In fact, it's the opposite: the vaccine strengthens the immune system by stimulating the production of antibodies to help you resist infection. People who get the flu shot every year are better protected than those who don't.
“If I decide to get the vaccine, it will cost me a lot of money.”
In fact, the vaccine is free for many people, including people 60 years of age or older, those with certain chronic diseases, and pregnant women. Ask your pharmacist if you can get the vaccine for free. If there is a cost, it will be negligible compared to those associated with the flu (e.g., loss of productivity, absenteeism from work, drug costs, etc.).
“I don't have time to get vaccinated... It's too long and complicated!”
Your time is precious? Did you know that you can get vaccinated at the pharmacy? In fact, several pharmacy branches affiliated to Jean Coutu offer a flu vaccination service by a nurse or a pharmacist.
If you have any questions about seasonal flu vaccination, ask your pharmacist for an informed opinion and to make the best decision. Ask your pharmacist if the vaccine can be given to you on the spot. You can also make an appointment now, thanks to our online appointment service.
Your pharmacist is always there to help if you have any questions about how to maintain your health!