It's time for your flu shot. The simple vaccine provides strong protections against a virus that can be lethal, and yet, just 42 percent of Americans plan on getting a flu shot this year, according to USA Today. The flu kills more people in the U.S. every year than any other vaccine-preventable disease. So why do so many people opt out? Blame misinformation, say experts. So to clear things up, here are six "dangerous" myths about the flu and its vaccine, and brief explanations of why they're not true:
1. The flu is simply a "bad cold"
The common cold can be an "annoyance" says Liz Szabo at the Chicago Sun Times. The flu, on the other hand, can be deadly. According to the CDC, the virus kills up to 49,000 people a year. Just last year, 114 children died from it. "Flu symptoms tend to appear suddenly, unlike a cold," she says. And unlike a cold, the flu can kill you.
2. The flu shot can give you the flu
This just isn't so, says Kenneth Tran at Montreal's Gazette, even though 35 percent of consumers believe that the flu vaccine can lead to sickness. "The viruses in the flu shot are dead," Tran says. At worst, you may experience a sore arm, or a little fever as your body adapts to the virus. But it's "impossible" for you to get the full-blown flu from a flu vaccine.
3. You don't need a flu shot if you got one last year
You need to get vaccinated every year, says ABC News, because the virus is constantly mutating. "It isn't clear how long protection lasts, and most years, the vaccine protects against different strains of flu than the year before."
4. If you're healthy, you don't need a flu shot
Around 50 percent of consumers think "flu shots are only for kids or sick people," says Szabo. But think about it. The most "vulnerable" potential flu victims, like newborns, are too weak for flu shots, and "the only way to protect them is to vaccinate everyone around them."
5. The shot causes autism
Roughly 14 percent of consumers think the flu shot is dangerous. They're wrong. Their fears are likely a result of the fact that a preservative called thimerosal was once commonly used in vaccines. But thimerosal was all but phased out in 2001. Plus, there isn't even any real evidence linking thimerosal to autism or multiple sclerosis.
6. The flu shot is a vast conspiracy
Some people seem to think the flu shot is part of an elaborate and diabolical partnership between pharmaceutical companies and politicians. Well, that's "nonsense," says Tran. "Flu viruses are a major liability to both the public and the health of the economy." The costs associated with an influenza pandemic "largely surpass the cost of a vaccination program." That's why everyone encourages you to get one.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- Pope Francis' American problem
- A brief history of the Christmas present
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The week's best photojournalism
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 10 things you need to know today: December 20, 2014
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- 4 things NASA can teach you about a good night's sleep
Subscribe to the Week