Topic Overview

Many people choose not to have the influenza vaccine because of myths
they believe about the disease or the vaccine.

Myth: Influenza is a minor illness.

Truth: Influenza and its complications caused
from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths each year from 1976 to 2006 in the United States.footnote 1

Myth: The vaccine causes the flu.

Truth: You can’t get the flu by having a flu
shot. The flu shot is made of killed virus and therefore
cannot cause the flu.

Myth: The vaccine causes unpleasant side

Truth: The vaccine causes no side effects in
most people. Earlier vaccines (1940s to 1960s) did have more
unpleasant side effects, but this is rare now. And an intradermal flu shot is available. A smaller needle is used, and the vaccine is injected into the skin instead of the muscle to reduce discomfort at the time of the shot.

Myth: The vaccine is ineffective because some
people had a flu-like illness after getting a flu vaccine.

Truth: Although getting the vaccine prevents
most people from becoming ill with the flu, some people still become infected.
This may occur because a person is exposed to the virus before getting a
vaccination or before it has taken effect, or because the vaccine does not
match the circulating virus closely enough. But any illness is usually
milder than it would be without having had the vaccine.



  1. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2012). Key facts about influenza (flu) and flu vaccine. Available online:


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christine Hahn, MD – Epidemiology

Current as ofMarch 25, 2017