5 flu myths and how to bust them11 March , 2020
The number one way to get the most out of your workplace flu vaccination program is to maximise participation. Informed employees who are comfortable with the vaccination program, and understand its benefits, are more likely to get involved.
Some people choose not to be vaccinated because they believe in common myths about the flu and flu vaccination. If you are armed with the facts to counter these myths, you can have constructive conversations that will allay their concerns and encourage them to participate. Below we address five myths that are worth busting.
MYTH: The flu vaccine doesn’t work
TRUTH: The flu vaccine is the most effective method of flu prevention
The flu vaccine works for the majority of people the majority of the time. While the flu vaccine is not 100% effective, it is the most effective way to reduce a person’s risk of getting the flu. It also reduces the severity of symptoms in people who are unlucky enough to be in the minority who catch the flu after vaccination. Combined with other simple hygiene and health behaviours, flu vaccination saves lives and keeps people at work.
MYTH: The flu vaccine will give me the flu
TRUTH: The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu
It is not possible to ‘catch’ the flu from the vaccine. The copies of the virus in the vaccine are deactivated, which makes it impossible for them to get into a person’s cells and infect them. If getting the flu vaccine can’t cause the flu (it definitely can’t), why do some people believe it can? There are a few reasons why people might believe this.
The flu vaccine works by causing the body to develop an immune response to the inactive virus, so the body is primed to attack the real virus if it enters the body later. In a small proportion of people (approximately 1-2%), this immune response can make them feel unwell for a day or two. But the symptoms are the result of the immune response, and not the disease itself. People who have had this experience might have mistakenly attributed the symptoms to ‘having the flu’.
Sometimes, people are already infected with the flu before they get the flu vaccine. Or they catch it in the week or two after they are vaccinated, when the vaccine hasn’t taken hold yet. If this happens, the vaccine does not have enough time to work. Therefore, they get sick soon after the vaccine, but not from the vaccine. It is simply a matter of unfortunate timing. Some people may instead coincidentally also catch a cold after getting the flu vaccine, and mistake this for the flu.
MYTH: I don’t need to get vaccinated because the flu isn’t serious and I am healthy
TRUTH: The flu is a serious illness that can severely impact anybody
The flu is a serious illness. Every year it causes an average of 3500 deaths in Australia, and 500 deaths in New Zealand, and put tens of thousands more in hospital across Australasia. The flu can cause serious complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections, inflammation of the heart, brain or muscles, or multi-organ failure. These complications can result in severe illness, permanent disability or death.
Unless there are specific medical reasons that make vaccination unsafe (for example, a compromised immune system), vaccination is important for everybody aged over 6 months. Some groups of people are more at risk from the flu – including babies and children, the elderly, pregnant women, people with pre-existing health conditions, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Māori and Pasifikia people, and people with compromised immune systems. However, anybody can catch the flu, and anybody can get seriously ill and even die from the flu. No matter their age, or how fit and healthy they are. Fit and healthy people who think they don’t need the vaccine should also consider that getting vaccinated also protects those around them – including vulnerable loved ones.
MYTH: I have been vaccinated for flu before, I don’t need another vaccine
TRUTH: People need to be vaccinated against flu every year
Vaccines are safe and effective because they are very specific – teaching the body to target the specific disease they are trying to prevent. However, flu viruses are constantly changing and evolving to bypass the defences provided by our bodies and vaccines. They constantly change their structure slightly so the vaccine, and the body’s immune response, don’t match them anymore.
A new vaccine is developed each year that specifically targets the versions of the flu that are expected to make the most people sick. Therefore, a person needs to ‘update’ their immunity with vaccination every year so their body can recognise and fight off the specific versions of the virus that are around at that time.
MYTH: I can’t pass on the flu if I feel well
TRUTH: You can infect other people with flu, even if you feel well
If you are carrying the flu virus in or on your body, you can pass the flu on to others. A person who has the flu in their system is capable of infecting other people for one to two days before they experience symptoms themselves. In this time – called the incubation period – they can have the flu (and pass it on) without even knowing it.
Also, approximately 20-30% of people carrying the flu virus in and on their body never have symptoms at all. They can feel totally well, while still passing the flu on to other people. This is another reason why flu vaccination is important. An individual may mistakenly believe that if they just commit to staying away from work when sick, they are not endangering their colleagues by not being vaccinated. However, the ability to pass on the virus without knowing they are carrying it means their choice not to be vaccinated puts others at risk as well.
So now that you know more about some of the common misconception surrounding the flu and the flu vaccination, why don’t you get in contact so that we can help you and your employees stay healthy this flu season by filling this form and getting a FREE quote.