Flu shot continues to be best seasonal defense

Decorative photo of nurse applying band aid following vaccination shot

DALLAS – Nov. 28, 2018 – Despite across-the-board endorsement from U.S. medical organizations, the annual flu shot somehow continues to have its detractors and far-flung rumors. A recent Florida-based study involving 700 parents, for instance, reported that more than half of respondents thought the shot could cause the flu.

The same survey also found that:

  • 33 percent of the respondents thought flu shots don’t work.
  • 30 percent thought getting a flu shot is a conspiracy.
  • 28 percent said flu shots caused autism.

“An annual vaccination – received as early as possible in the fall – is the single best thing you can do to protect yourself and your family,” says Dr. Trish Perl, Chief of Infectious Disease at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Reactions to flu shots can include soreness at the injection site but the vaccine cannot cause a viral [flu] infection. The shot is either made with a virus that has been ‘killed’ or ‘inactivated’ or made with only a single gene from a flu virus as opposed to the full virus in order to produce an immune response without causing infection.”

The season annually peaks in cold, dry months between December and February. Each year, medical experts provide vaccines that protect against three or four of the most commonly circulating strains of the flu. Once a person is inoculated, it takes about two weeks for the body to develop antibodies to protect against the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all adults and children ages 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Last flu season was one of the most severe in decades, the CDC reports, killing an estimated 80,000 people in America. 

Dr. Perl holds the Jay P. Sanford Professorship in Infectious Diseases.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 15 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 105,000 hospitalized patients, nearly 370,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.4 million outpatient visits a year.