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Can the Flu Vaccine Give You the Flu?

October 15, 2019 | Abigail Mckay

Estimates show that in the year 2010 there were between 9.3 million to 49 million reported cases of people contracting the influenza virus (the flu) in the United States. For context, the 2010 consensus determined that the US had a population of 390 million. This means that 15% of the population had (at some point) contracted the flu.

But is that particularly worrisome? Some people might not think so. People have several misconceptions when it comes to the influenza virus. For starters, they believe that the flu is the same as the common cold. Even if people don’t downplay the seriousness of the illness, they are apprehensive of getting a flu shot.

Since we’re speaking in numbers, less than half of the population of the United States (at present) have been vaccinated against the flu. Only 49.2% of the population believes that it is vital (and quite literally at that) to get vaccinated against the influenza virus?

What does the other 50.8% of the population believe?

The Influenza Virus (The Flu)

Physicians have determined that each year 20% of the population living in the United States will get the flu. There are a reported 31.4 million outpatient visits and 200,000 hospitalizations every year because of the influenza virus.

Influenza (flu) is a contagious, respiratory disease caused by the Influenza virus. Humans, in particular, are affected by the Influenza Type A and Type B virus i.e the human influenza viruses.

Most people tend to downplay the manifestations of the flu thinking it’s the same as the common cold. However, the flu can cause mild to severe symptoms. More severe outcomes of the flu can result in hospitalizations and sometimes even death.

People at higher risk of developing serious complications include:

  • People over the age of sixty
  • Children under the age of five
  • Immunocompromised patients (such as those with HIV)

Flu Symptoms

It is important to understand that contrary to popular belief, not everyone who has the flu will also concurrently have a fever. Other signs and symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore Throat
  • Runny Nose
  • Muscle Aches
  • Body Aches
  • General Tiredness
  • Headaches

Less common symptoms include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Complications of the flu include:

  • Bacterial Pneumonia
  • Ear Infections
  • Sinus Infections
  • Worsening of Chronic Medical Conditions (Heart Disease and Diabetes)

Difference Between the Flu and the Common Cold

Signs and Symptoms


Common Cold











Fairly Common








Discomfort Chest


Mild to Moderate

Stuffy Nose



Sore Throat







How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?

The flu vaccine, also known as the influenza vaccine or flu jab, is a vaccine designed to protect against infection by the influenza viruses. The World Health Organization(WHO) regards the vaccine amongst its list of ‘Essential Medicines.’

Production began in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until 1945 that the flu vaccine was introduced in the United States. Initially, the vaccination was administered to health care workers and adults. However, today the vaccine is administered to anyone over the age of six months.

The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) attests to the effectiveness of the flu vaccine by showing that vaccinated employees tend to return to work only a day after contracting the flu compared to over a week for those who aren’t vaccinated. It is therefore recommended that people over the age of six months vaccinate themselves at least twice a year. Particularly during flu season (late spring to winter months).

The flu vaccine is either administered as a flu jab (needle) or in the form of a nasal spray. Flu shots are relatively more common than nasal sprays. The flu vaccine is made by taking a strain of dead or attenuated (weakened) influenza virus and administering it into the body.

Why are people apprehensive about getting a Flu Shot?

There are a plethora of research, clinical trials, and publications all indicating the importance of getting vaccinated against the flu. However, over half of the population of the United States remains unvaccinated.

While admittedly there is a worrisome amount within these numbers who do not get vaccinated because they’re unable to, an even larger (and more worrisome) amount of people refuse to get vaccinated at all.

These people are commonly referred to as anti-vaxxers and reports show that a staggering 20% of the United States’ population fall into this category. Their apprehension is based on the belief backed by pseudoscience that vaccinations cause disease and malformations in children.

Given how the flu vaccine consists of the influenza virus, people are apprehensive of the effects of the vaccine. Physicians have stressed the fact that the flu vaccine does not cause the flu; the virus is either dead or inactivated.

Getting sick after getting the shot

A common question people ask is whether or not the flu vaccine can cause the flu. Physicians and scientists have negated this fact over and over again that the flu vaccine does not cause the flu.

People have a common misconception that fever is concurrent with the flu. After being administered the flu vaccine, people might develop a fever. This is not because of the flu.

What happens is that the body is reacting or preparing itself for vaccination. The virus is in such a minuscule amount that the body does not create a symptomatic response to the virus itself, although it does create a generalized response to the reception of the vaccine.

The Likelihood of the Vaccine Working

The capacity of the vaccines’ functioning can fluctuate from one season to another. The immunization's viability likewise can change contingent upon who is being inoculated.

Different variables assume a significant part in deciding the probability that influenza antibody will shield an individual from influenza illness:

  • Qualities of the individual being inoculated: like their age and wellbeing.
  • The similitude or "match" between the seasonal infections influenza immunization is intended to ensure against and the seasonal infections spreading locally.

The advantages of influenza vaccination will change, contingent upon different components like the attributes of the individual being immunized, what flu infections are circling that season and even, conceivably, which sort of influenza antibody was utilized.

Flu Shot Side Effects

It should be remembered, in every case, that the flu shot can not cause the flu. Other effects include:

Local Side Effects:

  • Muscle soreness at the site of the injection
  • Headaches with nasal sprays

General Side Effects:

  • Fever
  • Temperature
  • Coughing


Most treatment modalities for the flu include using antiviral drugs to lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the flu. However, antiviral medications are not the mainstay treatments.

The only definitive treatment, or at least the one with the most chances of working, would be the flu vaccine. It is, however, important to remember that you need to administer the flu vaccine once every 4 months (usually administered twice a year) to steer clear of influenza.

When to Consult a Doctor

Symptoms of the flu can range from mild to severe, with some even leading to death. 200,000 patients are hospitalized each year because of the flu. If you feel as if your symptoms are worsening, consult a doctor immediately.

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