A new survey shows that only 46 percent of Americans intend to get the vaccine this season. Here's a look at some common cop-outs—and why it's time to change your thinking.
1. “Last year it gave
me the flu.”
The reality: You may be convinced this happened, but it’s impossible. While the injection contains proteins from several strains of the virus (which prompts your body to make antibodies against them), they’ve been killed off and are incapable of making you ill. The more likely scenario is that you were already exposed to the flu before you got vaccinated, or you caught a different viral infection. Another possibility: You had a mild reaction to the shot.
“Some people feel achy and develop a low-grade fever, which actually may be a sign that their immune system is healthy and responsive,” says Susan Rehm, M.D., vice chair of the department of infectious disease at the Cleveland Clinic.
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2. “I hate needles.”
The reality: If the “ouch” is what bugs you, ask your doctor about Fluzone Intradermal, the micro-needle version. Unlike traditional flu shots, which penetrate the muscle, this tiny needle goes just under the skin—so you'll barely feel it. The truly needle-phobic can opt for a nasal spray like FluMist. To be eligible for it, you must be healthy, not pregnant, and between ages 2 and 49.
3. “I’m allergic to eggs.”
The reality: It’s true that most of the influenza viruses for vaccines are grown inside eggs, but unless you're severely allergic—meaning a few bites would send you into anaphylaxis— they're unlikely to cause you any problems, Rehm says. For the super-sensitive, there are now two totally egg-free vaccines on the market: Flucelvax and Flublok.
4. “I’m young and healthy; it wouldn’t be a big deal if I caught the flu.”
The reality: While kids, seniors, and people with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to severe flu complications, people of all ages end up hospitalized each year. “There’s no way to predict how bad this season will be,” Rehm says. “In some years, as many as 40,000 people have died.”
Even if you're personally willing to take the risk, consider the bigger picture: Women in their 30s and 40s tend to be in contact with kids and older people a lot, Rehm says. “Getting vaccinated protects you as well as those around you.”
5. “I don’t have time.”
The reality: Getting the vaccine nowadays is incredibly convenient. Numerous drugstore chains (like Walgreens and CVS), big box stores (including Target and Walmart), and even supermarkets (such as Safeway) have pharmacists or nurses who are trained to administer it—no appointment required. Some towns even organize drive-through flu clinics; you just roll down your window and stick out your arm. Experts say the location doesn't matter: Just get one!