Here for sharing far and wide is a collection of the most common myths and misconceptions surrounding flu vaccines, debunked point-by-point with lucid, thoroughly referenced explanations.
So far this year, Ebola has upstaged the flu and stolen most of the headlines about a killer virus. But flu season has not really quite begun just yet, so it remains to be seen which one will dominate the media throughout the winter. What's ironic is that the flu kills more people in one year – in the U.S. alone – than Ebola has killed ever, in history, worldwide.
But I'm already getting ahead of myself – I've bumped Ebola to #1 on this year's list – so let's get to it with two quick, important notes: First, for those who prefer to do their own research, I've provided all my sources in hyperlinks. More than half of these go directly to peer-reviewed medical research, and a fair number go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.
Second, but very important: I am a science journalist but not a medical doctor or other health care professional. I've compiled research here to debunk common myths about the flu vaccine. You should always consult a reliable, trusted medical professional with questions that pertain specifically to you. For the CDC recommendations on the 2014-2015 flu vaccines (including information on which vaccines pregnant women, the elderly and children under 2 should *not* get), please consult the CDC flu vaccine recommendations directly. There are indeed people who should *not* get the flu vaccine.
Myth #1: You should fear Ebola more than the flu.
Myth #2: You don't need the flu vaccine this year if you got it last year.
Myth #3: The flu shot is a "one size fits all" approach that doesn't make sense for everyone.
Myth #4: People die from the flu shot.
Myth #5: Deaths from the flu are exaggerated.
Myth #6: The flu vaccine gives you the flu or makes you sick.
Myth #7: Flu vaccines contains dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze.
Myth #8: Pregnant women should not get the flu shot. The flu shot can cause miscarriages. Pregnant should only get the preservative-free flu shot.
Fact: Pregnant women should get the flu shot. Fact: The flu shot reduces miscarriage risk. Fact: Pregnant women can get any inactivated flu vaccine.
Myth #9: Flu vaccines can cause Alzheimer's disease.
Fact: There is no link between Alzheimer's disease and the flu vaccine; flu vaccines protect older adults.
Myth #10: Pharmaceutical companies make a massive profit off flu vaccines.
Myth #11: Flu vaccines don't work.
Myth #12: Flu vaccines don't work for children.
Myth #13: Flu vaccines make it easier for people to catch pneumonia or other infectious diseases.
Myth #14: Flu vaccines cause vascular or cardiovascular disorders.
Myth #15: Flu vaccines can break the "blood brain barrier" of young children, hindering their development.
Myth #16: Flu vaccines cause narcolepsy.
Myth #17: The flu vaccine weakens your body's immune response.
Myth #18: The flu vaccine causes nerve disorders such as Guillain Barre syndrome.
Myth #19: The flu vaccine can make you walk backwards or cause other neurological disorders.
Fact: Neurological side effects linked to flu vaccination are extremely rare (see Myth #18), but influenza can cause neurological complications.
Myth #20: Influenza isn't that bad. Or, people recover quickly from it.
Myth #21: People don't die from the flu unless they have another underlying condition already.
Myth #22: People with egg allergies cannot get the flu shot.
Myth #23: If I get the flu, antibiotics will take care of me.
Myth #24: The flu shot doesn't work for me, personally, because last time I got it, I got the flu anyway.
Myth #25: I never get the flu, so I don't need the shot.
Myth #26: I can protect myself from the flu by eating right and washing my hands regularly.
Myth #27: It's okay if I get the flu because it will make my immune system stronger.
Myth #28: If I do get the flu, I'll just stay home so I'm not infecting others.
Myth #29: Making a new vaccine each year only makes influenza strains stronger.
Myth #30: The side effects of the flu shot are worse than the flu.
Myth #31: The "stomach flu" is the flu.
Myth #32: If you haven't gotten a flu shot by November, there's no point in getting one.
Myth #33: The flu vaccine causes Bell's palsy.