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Can I Catch the Flu From the Vaccine?

  • Category: Flu Shot
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Dr. Neil Nipper

Each year between August and March, I take the opportunity in my clinic visits to encourage my patients to get vaccinated for the flu. I’m passionate about sharing the numerous benefits of vaccination which are realized by receiving a flu shot. Some of those benefits are for the individual, but receiving the flu shot also protects others like family members and co-workers. A concerning trend I have seen in recent years is the numerous excuses I hear about why patients refuse to get a flu shot. The most concerning of these excuses is: “I once got the flu shot and ended up sick with the flu.” Knowing how the immune system works, I am concerned when people cling to this misinformation and especially when they feel empowered to share their misconceptions with others. The current injectable flu vaccine is comprised of killed viral particles (not live viruses) which serve as antigens to stimulate the immune system to produce protective antibodies against the disease. These antibodies can either totally prevent the infection or substantially reduce the severity of the infection. A 2018 study showed older adults who received the vaccine had an 82% reduction in the risk of being admitted to the intensive care unit due to influenza.

Occasionally, this vaccination results in several days of soreness at the injection site, headache, or fatigue. These symptoms quickly fade and are evidence the body is appropriately mounting the proper immune response. About two full weeks are required for a person to be effectively immunized against the flu. If someone were exposed to a co-worker with flu-like symptoms within days after they received the vaccine, they could be infected with the virus before their body was adequately protected from the flu. People can also be infected by the common cold or another respiratory virus for which there is no vaccine. These upper respiratory infections are usually short-lived and aren’t nearly as severe as influenza, which can be very debilitating.

As we prepare for the 2020 Flu season to begin this fall, FHCP will be actively marketing our flu-shot campaign to protect as many of our employees and members as possible. Getting your seasonal flu shot during the COVID-19 pandemic is even more important to keep our members safe and our company functioning at a high level. I look forward to engaging my patients and fellow employees in this discussion as I strive to support their health.