Do I Really Need a Flu Shot?
Oct 01, 2018 Cedars-Sinai Staff
It's that time of year again—flu season.
Everywhere you look you see advice about getting a flu shot, the vaccine that protects against influenza.
"It's best to get the shot before the flu starts circulating so you can be protected."
Your doctor, your pharmacist, and probably your mother are all telling you to get one, but you don't want to and you've got your reasons. Maybe they sound like one of these:
- I never get sick!
- Getting a flu shot will give me the flu.
- It doesn't work anyway.
We asked Dr. Jonathan Grein, our director of hospital epidemiology, who's heard every excuse there is for not getting a flu shot: Who really needs to get the flu shot?
Who should get a flu shot?
Dr. Jonathan Grein: Everyone 6 months or older should get a flu shot each year.
Why are flu shots important?
JG: The flu can be a serious infection that hospitalizes or kills thousands of people in the US every year. The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Does the flu shot make people sick?
JG: That's a very common misconception. The truth is the flu shot cannot give you the flu, but it does take about 2 weeks before it starts protecting you.
It's best to get the shot before the flu starts circulating so you can be protected. We recommend getting it before the end of October. It's also important to understand that the vaccine won't protect against other respiratory infections that might feel like the flu but are less serious.
The flu shot is only partially effective, so what's the point?
JG: While the CDC estimates that the 2017-18 flu vaccine was about 40% effective, this number can be misleading.
It only measures your risk of being diagnosed with the flu, and it does not consider how the vaccine reduces the severity of symptoms.
Data shows that the flu shot not only reduces your risk of getting the flu, but can also significantly reduce how sick you get. Overall, people who get the flu shot but still get the flu have shorter symptoms and are much less likely to be hospitalized or suffer serious complications.
What if I've never had the flu—that means I don't need to get a flu shot, right?
JG:: Many people who get hospitalized or die from the flu likely never had it before either. Would you not wear a seatbelt just because you've never been in a car accident? No, and the flu shot is the same idea.