There is a lot of misinformation out there about the flu vaccine, so we set out to verify if it’s worth getting the flu shot.
There is a rumor circulating that the flu vaccine is only 10 percent effective this year in the United States.
Dr. Michael Chang, a pediatric infectious disease expert with UT Health & Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, says that is false. That percentage comes from Australia where the flu season is already over. In the Southern Hemisphere, seasons are opposite so winter has come and gone, and it’s currently summer. Often, what happens with the Australian flu season is a sneak peak at what will happen in the U.S. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case this year.
“The strains that are circulating (in the US) seem to be reasonably matched between what's in the vaccine and what we are actually seeing,” Dr. Chang explained. “We are expecting that we have an ‘average effectiveness’ which is between 40 to 60 percent.”
Chang says even if you get the vaccine but still get the flu, that doesn’t mean it didn’t work.
“The flu vaccine is not necessarily intended to prevent you from getting the flu at all. It's that when you do get exposed to the flu or you get the flu infection, you didn't necessarily have to go see the doctor or take a whole week off work," Dr. Chang said.
In other words, the vaccine can lessen the severity of the virus.
Dr. Chang say he often hears patients concerned the vaccine will give them the flu, however, that is false.
“Because there's no live virus in any of the recommended vaccines this year, you can’t actually get flu from the flu shot. I actually tell patients…if you have some of the symptoms, if you have mild muscle ache, if your arm gets sore, that's potentially a sign that your body is responding to the vaccines like you want it to," he said.
If you’re planning to skip the vaccine and simply count on home remedies to treat or prevent the flu, Dr. Chang doesn’t recommend it.
“Everyone has their own personal favorite home remedy, whether it's Echinacea or Vitamin C or Elderberry or some other antioxidants. I would just say that there is no conclusive data that any of them are effective for treating the flu. If it makes you feel better…go ahead," he said.
Dr. Chang also says just because a person isn’t showing symptoms of the flu, that doesn’t mean they’re not contagious, as the virus can be spread one full day before symptoms develop. Dr. Chang recommends covering your mouth when you cough and using hand sanitizer often.
Dr. Michael Chang, pediatric infectious disease expert with UT Health & Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital
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