Vaccine Myths

It is not possible to get influenza from the vaccine. The vaccine is made from a killed virus, which is not capable of causing disease.

Myth: I am afraid that I will get the flu from the influenza vaccine.

It is not possible to get influenza from the vaccine. The vaccine is made from a killed virus, which is not capable of causing disease.

Myth: I took the flu vaccine one year and I got the flu anyway!   I don’t think the flu vaccine works.

The flu vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing flu. It is possible for some people to still get influenza even after taking the flu shot. However, these people usually get a milder case of the flu than they otherwise would get. The risk of hospitalization and death from complications of influenza are greatly reduced as well.

Protection from influenza vaccine usually begins within two weeks of receiving the vaccine. Therefore, it is possible to get influenza before the vaccine has had time to achieve its maximum effect.

Finally, the flu vaccine protects against influenza. Sometimes, people use the term "flu" in a general way to refer to a wide range of diseases. For example, someone may say that they had a case of "stomach flu" recently. Respiratory infections and colds are sometimes confused with influenza as well. The influenza vaccine protects only against a specific disease caused by the influenza virus. It does not protect against colds, other respiratory infections, or similar conditions. However, by reducing the incidence and severity of influenza, the flu vaccine can reduce complications of influenza, which might include respiratory infections.

Typical influenza illness includes abrupt onset of high fever, chills, a dry cough, headache, runny nose, sore throat, and muscle and joint pain. Unlike other common respiratory infections, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to weeks.

Myth: A friend of mine took the pneumonia shot and she got pneumonia anyway. I don’t think the pneumonia vaccine really works.

The pneumonia vaccine is not 100% effective in preventing pneumonia due to all causes. The pneumonia vaccine actually protects against infections caused by a bacterium called Streptococcus pneumoniae. The vaccine has been proven effective against blood-borne infections of S. pneumoniae which occur frequently among persons 65 years and older. Pneumonia due to other infections, or due to aspiration, cannot be prevented with the so called "pneumonia vaccine." However, the vaccine is about 50% effective in preventing complications of pneumococcal pneumonia (such as blood and brain infections) and death.


Myth: I am willing to get immunized, but I don’t have much money. I really can’t afford to spend money on these shots.

Medicare pays 100% of the cost for influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations for Medicare beneficiaries. If you are covered by Medicare, there is no cost for the vaccine. Check with your primary care physician about getting immunized. In many states, pharmacists can also provide immunizations and submit the bill directly to Medicare. To see if pharmacists can immunize in your state.

If you are not a Medicare beneficiary, check with your state health department .  In many states, immunizations are available free from the health department.

For more questions and answers about immunization, go to: Immunization Questions

For more information about immunization, go to: Immunization Facts


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