Flu season is now in full swing, and it’s turning out to be a bad one, especially in the South, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet more than half of Americans said that they planned to skip the flu shot this year, according to a nationally representative survey of 1,595 adults conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. The good news is that it is not too late to be vaccinated, since infections tend to peak by March. But don’t dawdle: It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to work, so the sooner you get vaccinated, the better.
Here are five common excuses people in our survey gave us for skipping the vaccination last flu season—along with our doses of reality.
Excuse: I am worried about side effects or getting flu from the vaccine (33 percent)
Reality: Side effects are uncommon and usually mild. They include soreness or redness at the injection site, body aches, and a low fever lasting a day or two, according to the CDC. Vaccination cannot cause flu illness.
Excuse: I do not get the flu (24 percent)
Reality: Just because you haven’t had the flu in the past does not mean you won’t get it. The CDC estimates that the flu caused 31.8 million illnesses in the U.S. last year, and it recommends the flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
Excuse: I believe in building my natural immunity (24 percent)
Reality: The body’s immunity against the flu declines over time, and the flu virus is capable of changing from year to year. Whatever protection you picked up in the past may not fight flu strains circulating now. Hence the need for annual vaccination.
Excuse: The vaccine is ineffective (20 percent)
Reality: During the 2012-13 flu season, vaccination saved millions of Americans from getting sick and 79,000 from being hospitalized, says the CDC. If you get vaccinated and still come down with the flu, you will probably have a milder case and less chance of serious complications.
Excuse: I do not like getting shots (16 percent)
Reality: Lying down for the shot may help you relax. If necessary, ask your doctor if you qualify for the nasal-spray vaccine.