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8 Myths about Flu Shots, Debunked

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 15, 2022

8 Myths about Flu Shots, Debunked

Flu is a condition wherein the virus attacks the lungs, throat, and nose. Its symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, congestion, cough, runny nose, and the like. While flu may sound quite like common cold, there are a few differences to be noted between the two. One major difference being there is no vaccine for common cold, but taking a flu shot is definitely an option. However, it is important to be aware about certain myths about flu shots, and who should really take one.

What is seasonal flu?

As the name suggests, it is a viral respiratory infection that flares up during certain seasons and due to certain conditions.

A person is most susceptible to catching flu in crowded places where infections run high, and flu or influenza is highly infectious due to the viruses travelling far and fast. The best way to get rid of these viruses is by maintaining optimum hand hygiene.

Those who are most susceptible to flu, the elderly, and immunocompromised and should thus be more careful are the following:

  1. School and college going students
  2. Public transport takers
  3. Staffers at call center agents
  4. Hotel management staff

Apart from the aforementioned, anyone who is frequently exposed to many people or visits crowded places on a regular basis is at the risk of contracting flu.

Hence, taking a flu shot periodically is the safest and most essential step to take.

Difference between common cold and flu

While both common cold and flu are essential respiratory diseases, the main difference between the two is the fact that they are caused by different sets of viruses.

Given a common cold can be caused by more than 200 varieties of viruses, hence the term.

Another basic difference between the two is that common cold is a milder version of flu, though the two have similar symptoms such as fever, chills, runny nose, etc. However, the symptoms are more intense in the case of flu.

Myths about flu shots debunked

With facts come myths, and flu is not an exception to the statement, much like all the other ailments.

There are multiple myths surrounding the flu and most of them are around flu shots.

Here, we will try and bust some of the myths about flu shots for you.

Flu Vaccine Myth 1: It contains harmful ingredients

Perhaps the most common flu vaccine myth is that it contains harmful ingredients.


Flu shots comprise two main ingredients: formaldehyde which is used to inactivate the virus and thimerosal which is a preservative, both of which are not harmful.

Flu Vaccine Myth 2: Pregnant women should not get a flu shot

Another myth that can be downright harmful is that pregnant women cannot take a flu shot. There are people who have gone to the length of exaggerating and saying that flu shots can terminate pregnancies.

Fact: Let’s bust it right here. There is no ounce of truth in this myth. In any case, a pregnant woman can take any shot or medicine after consulting her doctor. In most cases, the doctor will never advise against flu shots.

Flu Vaccine Myth 3: Flu shots can cause the flu

One of the most bizarre myths about flu shots is that it can be the cause of flu. This myth was fanned by the fact that the vaccine was developed using a dead flu virus, and thus the misconception.

Fact: The virus, in this case, is created at a lab and then deactivated to be used in the vaccine. Please note that an inactivated or dead virus has no potential to adversely affect your health. In fact, it makes your immune system stronger so that it fights the flu.

Flu Vaccine Myth 4: You don’t need one every year

Another quite dangerous myth is that you don’t need a flu shot every year. This is particularly dangerous for stating that a flu shot is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime vaccine; once taken, you are done for life.

Fact: This is not the case. Flu vaccines keep updating with time, covering more viruses or becoming more effective and potent with each updated version.

Also, flu shots vary from one season to another. What may have been effective last year may not protect you this year. Thus, it is imperative to get another shot.

Flu Vaccine Myth 5:

Some people have advanced the potentially problematic myth that a person does not need a flu shot because he or she has never gotten flu.

Fact : Well, it’s almost like saying since you have never got into a car accident so you don’t need car insurance. The future is unpredictable and so is the flu. So it’s best to get a flu shot, upon the advice of your doctor as well.

Flu Vaccine Myth 6: The flu is not fatal

Another hazardous myth to believe in is that the flu is not fatal.

Fact: Although it is mostly true, it is no longer common because of the flu shots. Hundreds of years ago people did die of flu because there wasn’t any vaccine. It was a pandemic then.

Flu shots prevent such a situation. If you don’t get those, your flu can turn into a severe respiratory disease which can cause death in some cases. It’s rare but possible.

Flu Vaccine Myth 7: Flu shots cause serious side effects

Flu vaccines can lead to side effects that are quite serious in nature. This is a myth.

Fact: There are side effects, yes, but those are extremely rare. The major side effect is Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a condition wherein your muscles go weak, eventually leading to paralysis. However, this can only happen in one in a million cases.

Flu Vaccine Myth 8: Once you get a flu shot, you’re immune for life

Some people think that getting a flu shot will ensure that they don’t get any flu ever. This is also a myth.

Fact: The flu virus alters its way of working as per season and time. Hence, one flu shot cannot secure you against all the viruses. If flu caused by another type of virus appears, your previous flu shot may not help you against it.

Also, for the same virus, there are frequent changes and hence the vaccine also needs to be repeated at regular intervals. This is also the reason why taking a flu shot periodically is highly recommended by doctors. Also, it is possible that you can get the flu even if you have gotten the shot.

So, it is best to consult your doctor about your health risks and the requirement of a flu shot and follow medical advice.

Key Takeaways on Myths about Flu Shots

Myths about flu shots are widespread and need to be debunked. While many consider influenza as a minor ailment, ignoring it can lead to hospitalization and some eventual serious effects, even death in rare case. Even though this is not a permanent vaccine and is a periodic one, flu shots are imperative to a healthy lifestyle.

Do you know any more strange myths about flu shots? Do let us know in the comments.

Learn more about maintaining your respiratory health, here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 15, 2022

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