News & Media

02 May 2019

Mythbusters: five common myths about the flu that simply aren’t true!

You may have heard the saying once or twice during TV ad breaks, on social media newsfeeds and even on roadside billboards. The message is clear: you never forget the flu, so don’t forget your flu shot!

Flu shot vaccination

These campaigns do the rounds about the same time year after year, before winter well and truly hits. At the same time, you’re sure to hear someone say, “the flu vaccination gave me the flu, so I’m not getting it again”, or “I’m immune, because I got the shot last year”.

We’ve asked one of our GPs, Dr Hieu Tran, to bust five common myths about the flu vaccination. Here they are:

The flu vaccination gives you the flu

You cannot catch the flu from a flu vaccination. The vaccination itself has an inactivated form of the virus that cannot transmit infection, so it can’t give you the flu at all. It’s important to note it can take about two weeks after your vaccination before you’re fully protected, so always practise good hygiene!

If you’ve been vaccinated once, you’re protected forever

Even if you’ve had the flu vaccination before, you are not protected beyond that year’s flu season. Flu viruses are constantly changing, and so the strains in the flu vaccination change every year. It’s important you stay protected and get a new flu shot every year.

The flu isn’t that serious

Yes, yes it is. Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can lead to serious illness, hospitalisation and even death. On average, influenza causes 3,500 deaths, 18,000 hospitalisations and 300,000 GP consultations each year in Australia.

Nurse injecting patient's shoulder

Flu vaccinations aren’t safe for pregnant women

The flu vaccination is completely safe during pregnancy. In fact, pregnant Victorians can get the flu shot for free. By getting the flu shot when pregnant, you are protecting yourself from illness and helping to protect your baby several months after they’re born (before they can be vaccinated).

I got sick even though I had the vaccination, so the vaccine doesn’t work

Unfortunately there are so many bugs out there, it’s impossible to vaccinate against them all. The flu vaccination is your best defence against the flu. The vaccine reduces your chance of getting the flu and its potentially serious complications, like pneumonia and death.

Some more info

Everyone aged six months or older is encouraged to get the flu shot before the peak flu season hits, which is generally from June to September. The flu shot is easily accessible, is free for some groups of people and is stocked at most GP clinics and pharmacies. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

Here are some other ways you can help combat the spread of colds and flu this winter:

Wash your hands regularly

Use soap and water, particularly after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Cover your coughs or sneezes

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, throw the tissue in a plastic-lined rubbish bin and then wash your hands.

If you get sick, stay home

If you catch a cold or the flu, rest up and avoid spreading it to other people by staying home. Seek medical advice if symptoms continue or get worse.