The Truth About Flu Vaccines: Debunking Flu Shot Myths

Many people may now be considering getting a flu shot after the news broke Tuesday that a Pueblo woman died from the virus.

When it comes to protecting yourself from the flu, health experts say the best thing you can do it get vaccinated. But there are a lot of myths about the shot. Many people think it will actually make them sick.

“Personally I'm against putting a virus into my body intentionally,” said local resident Pamela Smith.

A local Springs mother told us she doesn’t get the shot after her husband had bad experiences with it.

"He's gotten it twice and has gotten the flu every time he's gotten the flu shot.”

We talked with the medical director of the El Paso County Public Health Department to clear things up.

The first myth: The flu shot can give you the flu.

"That's basically false. The primary flu vaccine that most people get is made of killed influenza viruses, and because they're killed they can't give you influenza,” said Dr. Bill Letson, Medical Director of the El Paso County Public Health Department.

Letson says a small majority of people get a live virus. If you do, you could get mild influenza symptoms, but most people don’t.

Keep in mind, once you get the shot, it takes two weeks to build your immune system. If exposed during that time, you could still get sick.

Another myth: There’s mercury in the vaccine.

That’s false for most vaccines.

"The live virus vaccine does not have mercury in it and the killed virus vaccine that we use here at El Paso County Public Health comes in a single dose vile, and there is no longer mercury in that,” said Letson.

Some manufacturers do still put low levels of mercury in their vaccines. But Letson says it’s not harmful.

Children vaccines and the flu mist do not ever have mercury in them.

If you are worried about it, check with your doctor first and ask if it’s in the vaccines they offer.

A third myth: If you’re allergic to eggs, you shouldn’t get the shot.

"For the vast majority of people who report egg allergies the answer is false,” said Letson.

But it is true if you are severely allergic. Experts say if you have severe reactions, such as your breathing becoming compromised, don’t get it before talking with your doctor or an allergist.

That’s because the flu vaccine and the mist are both created inside an egg yolk.

There is an FDA approved egg-free flu vaccine for adults now available. The information about that is at the end of this story.

Health experts tell us if you have a mild allergy to eggs, you can still get the shot, but it’s a good idea to check with your doctor first.

If you can’t get the vaccine, make sure those around you do so you aren’t exposed to the virus. And if you feel flu symptoms come on, call your doctor right away. You can get an anti-viral medicine that can help.

One last myth to debunk: if you think the stomach flu and influenza are the same thing--think again.

While you can experience stomach problems from the flu, it’s mostly a respiratory infection.

So the flu shot does not protect you from the stomach flu.

To learn more about the vaccine, learn the truth about flu myths, or find an upcoming clinic near you visit the El Paso County Health Department's website:

Click here for the Center for Disease Control and Preventions website, which has information about the flu vaccine recommendations. When you scroll down to the second page, it addresses the topic of flu vaccines for people with egg allergies.