https://www.npr.org/sections/health-sho ... -to-decide
1. Can getting the flu vaccine give you the flu or make you sick?
Fact: The flu shot can't give you the flu.
It's not biologically possible to catch an illness from the inactivated vaccine, and even the weakened live virus in the nasal vaccine cannot cause the flu. Anyone who gets sick after the flu shot caught the bug either just before or after getting vaccinated. It only takes two to five days to incubate a flu virus but two weeks for the vaccine to start working, so if you catch the flu in the waiting room, you still could fall ill even though you got the vaccine that day. That said, some people may feel under the weather from side effects of the flu shot, such as a headache, nausea, low fever or similar symptoms. These are normal responses to the vaccine in some people because they are normal responses from an immune system fighting a pathogen.
2. Aren't deaths from the flu exaggerated?
Fact: Deaths from influenza range from a few thousand to tens of thousands every U.S. flu season.
The number of flu deaths varies wildly from one year to the next depending on the dominant strains (H3N2 is usually the deadliest). But the total U.S. deaths are always in the thousands, ranging from 3,349 deaths in 1986-87 to a high of 48,614 deaths in 2003-04, according to a 2010 study by the CDC. People usually die from complications of the flu — especially pneumonia — rather than the flu itself, but wouldn't have died if they hadn't caught the flu.
3. Don't flu vaccines contain dangerous ingredients, such as mercury, formaldehyde and antifreeze?
Fact: Flu shot ingredients do not pose a risk to most people.
Vaccines do not contain antifreeze. Formaldehyde is used during vaccine manufacturing to inactivate the virus so it cannot cause disease. Any trace amounts remaining in the final vaccine fall well below what naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables or the levels that the human body produces itself.
Single-dose vials of flu vaccine do not contain any mercury compounds. The larger, multidose vials contain a preservative called thimerosal, which breaks down into 49% ethylmercury and is used to prevent bacterial contamination of the vaccine container. Unlike the methylmercury found in fish that can build up in the body, ethylmercury is made of larger molecules that cannot enter the brain; they exit the body in about a week. Vaccines made with thimerosal have been extensively studied and are safe, but if you don't want it for whatever reason, request a single-dose vaccine.
Some people have allergies to some of the ingredients in flu vaccines, such as gelatin, thimerosal or antibiotics; if you think that might be the case for you, ask your physician which type of flu vaccine is right for you.
4. Should pregnant women avoid the flu shot?
Fact: Pregnant women are particularly advised to get the flu shot.
The flu vaccine is not only safe for pregnant mothers but is also especially recommended since pregnancy increases the risk of flu complications for the mom and the baby. From 2010-2018, pregnant women accounted for 24% to 34% of influenza-associated hospitalizations, though only 9% of women aged 15-44 are pregnant each year. Plus, the protection from maternal antibodies extends to the baby after birth. Hospitalizations are 40% lower among vaccinated pregnant women and 72% lower among their infants, from birth through age 6 months, compared with those who don't get vaccinated. Flu shots are also linked to a lower risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, likely in part because infections during pregnancy, including influenza, are linked to greater miscarriage risk. Flu vaccination is even associated with reduced risk of other birth complications, such as a preterm or underweight baby.
5. Don't pharmaceutical companies make a massive profit from flu vaccines?
Fact: Revenue from vaccines make up a tiny proportion of pharma profits and make it possible for companies to continue making the vaccines in the event of a pandemic.
Total revenue from influenza vaccines is estimated by the WHO to have been about $2.2 billion in 2018. But total pharmaceutical industry revenue was nearly $1.2 trillion – making flu vaccines only about 0.18% of total industry revenue. By comparison, just one drug, Humira, which is used to treat autoimmune conditions, accounted for $20 billion in 2018. Each of the 15 most profitable drugs in 2018 bring in more than double the amount from the entire flu vaccine market each year.
If pharmaceutical companies didn't make a profit off vaccines, they likely wouldn't manufacture them, resulting in thousands more deaths, health care analysts note. Keeping production going also ensures vaccines are available if a pandemic occurs. Meanwhile, influenza itself is quite expensive, costing the U.S. about $4.6 billion annually in direct medical costs and as much as $87 billion annually in all costs.
Lastly, Wiederman points out: Getting vaccinated also helps protects the family, friends and coworkers swirling around you each day — particularly people whose age or health conditions put them at higher risk for flu complications.
"I would think there's not a single person out there that doesn't have contact regularly with someone with risk factors," Wiederman says. The long list of people especially vulnerable to a bad case of flu includes toddlers and seniors, pregnant women and anyone with asthma or other chronic illness. "When we get vaccinated," he says, "we lessen the chances that they will get infected, too."