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Debunking myths about flu vaccine

Mythbusters: Doctors, nurses and pharmacists debunk myths about flu vaccine

10 May 2018, AUCKLAND, NZ: As winter approaches, so does flu season and health experts are calling for people to ignore common misconceptions about the flu vaccine in an effort to reduce the number of New Zealanders getting the flu this winter.

Around one in four New Zealanders gets the flu each year, taking an average of five sick days off work, at a cost of $1.51 billion to the New Zealand economy. For some, the illness can be fatal and the high number of people suffering severe flu symptoms each year is placing pressure on hospitals and medical centres throughout New Zealand.

Those at the highest risk include young children, adults 65 years or older and pregnant women, however the flu can affect anyone causing severe symptoms, regardless of health. Contrary to common belief, people of all ages and fitness levels are at risk of falling victim each year.

Local pharmacists and medical centre teams are available nationwide to administer free flu vaccinations to pregnant women and those 65 years and older in a move to increase awareness and improve uptake for those who are most vulnerable. In addition, people with certain long term medical conditions can visit their medical centre for a free vaccination from a nurse or GP.

Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem, Life Pharmacy and The Doctors medical centres, aims to help keep New Zealanders healthy this winter.

Green Cross Health Group Manager, Professional Services, Alison Van Wyk says “There are a number of people in New Zealand who unnecessarily put themselves and their families at risk of contracting the flu every year.

“It’s important for New Zealanders to be informed on the benefits as well as understand the myths that surround flu vaccination. We encourage people in our communities to get protected this winter,” says Ms Van Wyk.

Editor’s notes

Top five myths about the flu

1. You can catch the flu from the flu shot: False. The flu vaccine does not contain live strains of the virus and as such it cannot infect you. This misconception may stem from the fact that it takes around two weeks for your body to form protective antibodies to the vaccine so it can fully protect you[1].
3. Fit, young and healthy people don’t need to worry: False. The flu can affect anybody, causing severe symptoms regardless of health, fitness levels or age. The more people who are vaccinated, the less transmission of the flu occurs and the better protected our overall population is.
5. You can't spread the flu if you're feeling well: False. Twenty per cent to 30 per cent of people carrying the influenza virus have no symptoms[2].
7. Pregnant women can’t get a flu shot: False. In fact, pregnant women should get a flu shot as soon as possible, helping to protect their baby for their first few months of their life when they are not yet old enough to get a flu shot themselves, yet are very susceptible to infection. Pregnant women are eligible for a free flu vaccine at their local pharmacy or GP clinic.
9. You don’t need to get a flu shot every year: False. The influenza virus mutates each year, so getting vaccinated each year is important to make sure you have immunity to the strains most likely to cause an outbreak. Even when the viruses the vaccine protects against have not changed from the previous season, it is important to get vaccinated yearly as immune protection from vaccination declines over time2.

[1] Misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

[2] Dispelling misinformation about the flu vaccine, sickness, treatment, and recovery


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