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4 myths about the flu vaccination

With the arrival of winter, and the start of the flu season upon us, many Australians are weighing up whether to have a flu vaccine or not, and it is important to debunk some myths about the flu vaccine.

Speaking to Wellness Daily, TAL general manager of health services, Dr Sally Phillips, said there are a number of misconceptions that people have about flu vaccines and that Australians need to be able to better protect themselves this winter.

“We live in a digital era which enables people to easily access health information, and this is important to help all Australians understand how they can live healthy lives. However, with so many different sources of information out there around the safety of the flu vaccine, it can be difficult for people to navigate to find reliable and trustworthy sources, so often these misconceptions can persist,” she explained.

“Flu can be a much more serious illness than the common cold, so it’s important for Australians to understand the benefits of the flu vaccination to make an informed decision that will help prevent them from falling ill.”

When it comes to the workplace, people should consider how you can take steps to prevent the spread of flu, Dr Phillips continued.

“Some of the key things to consider are to have a vaccination to protect yourself while regularly cleaning any surfaces you come into contact with, like your keyboard, desk and phone and washing your hands regularly. It’s also important that people stay at home at the first signs of flu as this is the best way to get better and helps prevent spreading any virus around the workplace.”

With that in mind, Dr Phillips debunked four myths that are pervasive in conversations about being vaccinated for the flu:

Myth 1: Flu is not serious, I don’t need a vaccination

We’ve all heard people downplay the severity of the flu, but it is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious infection and in some cases, even death, she said.

“People with weaker or reduced immune systems are more susceptible to the flu, such as over 65s, children, pregnant women and those with chronic illness.”

“However, healthy people can still get the virus and complications such as sinus and ear infections, pneumonia, heart and brain inflammations, so it’s advisable to take precautions to avoid falling ill,” she advised.

Myth 2: The flu vaccination gives you the flu

“The flu vaccination does not give you the flu as it does not use a live strain of the virus,” she said.

“The vaccine works by containing a small amount of the virus in an altered state to allow our bodies to recognise the virus and produce an immune response to it. By being exposed to a safe version of the virus in the vaccine, your body’s immune system will be able to respond quickly if you are exposed to the actual virus in real life, which will stop you from becoming ill.”

Some people may experience a few mild symptoms, such as achy muscles or a low fever, Dr Phillips noted, but added that these are only temporary and are not the flu.

Myth 3: I had a vaccination last year, I don’t need to get the flu vaccination again

The flu vaccination works by triggering your body to produce the right antibodies to fight off the infection. However, the flu virus evolves and mutates every season, which means that if you had a vaccination last year (for a previous season) your immune system will not recognise the new virus and will not be able to fight it off, she said.

“Vaccine experts continuously survey the influenza virus and determine which viruses are most likely to circulate in the next flu season,” she said.

“Each year, flu vaccinations are created in line with their recommendations and predictions so to ensure that you have optimal protection, you should get a flu vaccination every year.”

Myth 4: I can’t get the vaccination because I am pregnant

“Pregnant women can get the flu vaccination at any time during pregnancy. There is no evidence of an increased risk of problems for women or their babies, in fact The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommends the flu vaccination for pregnant women to protect them and their baby,” Dr Phillips said.

“Pregnancy can cause changes to women’s immune systems and heart and lung functions, which can make pregnant women more susceptible to getting the flu, so it is recommended that pregnant women do get a flu vaccination.”

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