Are Flu Shots Safe?

If you’ve ever wondered if the flu vaccine is safe, you’re not alone. Whether or not flu shots are safe has been a topic of much debate recently, with some parents choosing to opt out of flu shots and vaccinations for their children and families. The Journal of Pediatric Pharmacology and Therapeutics1 reports that two of the most common reasons why people elect not to get vaccinations are “safety concerns and a desire for more information about healthcare providers.” Despite these rising concerns, the truth is that flu shots are safe. Getting the flu vaccine is safe and will not give you the flu. These vaccines contain viruses that are unable to replicate in people, as they have been deactivated, or killed, so to speak. In the case of nose sprays that contain a flu vaccination, the virus contained in the nose spray is severely weakened and is unable to survive in one’s lungs. 

But what happens when you get a fever, muscle aches, or other side effects from the shot? These side effects are not uncommon, but they aren’t the flu, and they do not last very long. While some people may claim that they got the flu after receiving a flu shot, cold symptoms are often mixed up with flu symptoms, as they are similar in nature, and many are the same. However, due to how the flu shot is designed, the flu shot is safe and does not give one the flu. While the viruses that are put into the flu shot change each year, they always provide a line of biological defense for your immune system, preventing other illnesses such as pneumonia. Flu shots are designed to be safe and to provide a greater biological safety to the recipient.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC)3 reports that flu vaccines have been used by hundreds of millions of Americans for the past half century with extensive research that supports the safety of flu shots and vaccines. They also strongly advise that any person older than six months old should be receiving annual flu shots to increase public safety and reduce the risk of a preventable illness. (Children younger than six months should not receive the vaccine.) Meanwhile, to further ensure the safety of flu shots, the CDC closely oversees the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). These systems allow the CDC to track any negative events that may have been caused by a vaccine, determine whether or not an investigation needs to be held to question the vaccine at hand, investigate if necessary, and collaborate with nine other health organizations to increase our knowledge of vaccine and flu shot data. The systems in place to ensure the safety of the general public also ensure that flu shots are safe and effective.

*Reviewed and approved by Dr. Rob Lapporte

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1)  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4869767/

2)  https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/two-bad-reasons-getting-flu-shot-201411157530

3) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/general.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov