3 Common Misconceptions about the Flu Vaccine

Older people are at a higher risk of the flu than the general population due to a decline in immune system function as one ages; emphasizing the importance of vaccination in healthy ageing.  However, common misconceptions towards vaccines have formed a major barrier to uptake rates.  A Portuguese study[1] uncovered three main misconceptions people hold towards the influenza vaccine, described below:

“I’m healthy, therefore I don’t need a vaccine”

Respondents felt they did not need a vaccine because they were healthy, ‘careful’ or rarely caught the flu.  This common misconception is false, as it is always important to be vaccinated, despite how healthy you may be.[2]  A seasonal influenza vaccine provides people with protection against the three most widespread flu strains of the season.

“I’m scared the vaccine will have negative effects”

The most frequent reasoning respondents gave for not taking the flu shot was that the side effects of the flu vaccination were worse than the flu itself.  This common misconception is false. Reactions to vaccines are typically minor – such as a slight fever or a sore arm.[3]

“I can’t catch the flu”

Even high-risk individuals (such as those with a chronic condition) believed that the flu was not serious, especially compared to the chronic condition they were dealing with. This is false.  In fact, these respondents are especially at risk for influenza due to their chronic condition.  Influenza is a disease that should be taken seriously, as it kills around 290 000 to 650 000 people annually.  The influenza vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza and exposing it to others.[4]

The 14th Global Conference’s theme ‘Toward Healthy Ageing’ will feature current research on the importance of vaccination in older people and at-risk groups, and how stakeholders can address the barriers preventing populations from getting vaccinated.  To learn more about the IFA Global Conference please visit www.IFA2018.com.

[1]Santos, A.J., Kislaya, I., Machado, A. and Nunes, B., 2017. Beliefs and attitudes towards the influenza vaccine in high-risk individuals. Epidemiology & Infection145(9), pp.1786-1796.

[2] Bustreo, F., 2017. Embrace the facts about vaccines, not the myths. World Health Organization. http://www.who.int/en/news-room/commentaries/detail/embrace-the-facts-about-vaccines-not-the-myths

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5 Oct. 2017, www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/general.htm

[4] World Health Organization, 2018. Influenza (Seasonal). http://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/influenza-(seasonal)