3 Common Questions about the Flu Shot Answered

Oct 15 • 2015

Flu season is right around the corner, so it is time to start thinking about getting a flu vaccine. Each year, many of the same flu shot questions arise. Dr. Mark Castellaw of the Baptist Medical Group (BMG) has answers to three of the most common flu vaccine concerns, below.

How Effective Is It?
It is impossible to predict what each flu season will be like, including the timing, length, and how severe it may be. However, the flu shot is designed to protect against the strains of the virus that are predicted to be the most common that year. “Every year it is a guess on the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Castellaw said. “Most strains are covered, but like last year, some are not. However, the shot does possibly lessen symptoms of strains missed.”

When Should I Get The Flu Shot?
If possible, the best option is to get the flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your area. Some places even offer free flu shot events. “The flu season usually runs from October to February,” Castellaw said. “The best time to get the shot is now. It takes two weeks for the shot to be effective.” Start researching in your area to see where you can get the vaccine and if necessary, schedule an appointment.

Will I Get Sick From the Flu Shot?
One of the biggest concerns is that having the flu vaccine will give you the flu. However, this is absolutely not the case. “The flu shot will not give you the flu no more than a tetanus shot gives you tetanus,” Castellaw said. “The introduction of viral proteins sets up an immune response from your body to protect you from the flu.” The most common side effects people experience are soreness, redness, tenderness, or swelling in the area of the shot. While you may experience a headache, muscle aches, or a low fever, this does not mean you have the flu.

If you are still hesitant about getting the flu vaccine, Dr. Castellaw encourages you to speak to your doctor about your concerns. “Only if you are allergic to the shot or have had certain reactions to it in the past should you avoid the shot,” he said. “The flu shot saves lives.”