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Healthy Kids: Flu shot misconceptions persist as Oregon flu cases rise

(Image via Adobe Stock provided by Kelli Warner)

Flu season is in full force in Oregon, resulting so far in hundreds of hospitalizations and the deaths of two children. There’s likely several months to go before this year’s flu season is over, so anyone 6 months or older who has not yet received a flu shot is encouraged to get one as soon as possible.

“Influenza isn’t just, ‘Oh, I had the flu this weekend.’ Oh no,” says Dr. Pilar Bradshaw with Eugene Pediatric Associates. “When you have influenza, you are sick in bed with a high fever for a week or more, terrible body aches, chills, congestion, coughing and sore throat. It’s a terrible illness.”

In her 25 years as a pediatrician, Dr. Bradshaw has seen plenty of nasty flu seasons that have taken their toll on children and adults. She says flu shots are critically important and she helps families separate fact from fiction when it comes to the vaccine and the virus.

Common misconceptions regarding the flu include:

Myth: You can catch the flu from the vaccine.

Fact: That’s not true. The flu vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that cannot transmit infection.

Myth: I don’t need a flu vaccine every year.

Fact: Yes, you do. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for just about everyone 6 months or older, even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season. A person’s immunity from vaccination declines over time, so an annual flu shot is needed.

Myth: If you get the flu, the shot didn't work.

Fact: That’s not entirely accurate. It’s difficult for scientists to perfectly predict which strains of influenza will be dominant each year. But if you do get the flu, having had the shot can lessen the severity of the symptoms.

“Is it possible you could get a case of influenza the year you got a flu shot? Yes. Is it likely that if you hadn’t received the shot that you would have been sicker? Yes,” Dr. Bradshaw says.

Protect your family and the community

While the flu vaccine doesn't offer 100 percent protection, Dr. Bradshaw says it’s the best tool we have against a potentially deadly virus.

“Influenza is not a benign illness. People sort of blow it off, but influenza kills more people every year in the U.S. than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. It’s a big deal.”

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. See your health care provider or the public health department, or visit your local pharmacy, but don’t wait. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

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