Five myths about flu jabs

As regular and reliable as the clocks going backwards in autumn, the flu season sneaks up on us each winter. Every year, the government and NHS communications urge us to have the flu vaccination to protect us from the year’s most likely strains.

Many people will be unsure whether they should have the flu jab or not, and the common flu jab myths can be a source of worry and fear.

So we thought we would dispel some of the myths that surround the flu vaccination to allow people to make a fully informed decision for themselves.

Five common myths about flu jabs and flu season

MYTH 1: the flu jab gives you a mild dose of flu because it contains small amounts of the virus and forces your body to fight it and in so doing builds up your immunity to it.

FACT: the reality is the jab does not give you the flu. Instead, the vaccination contains elements of the virus that are ‘inactivate’ meaning they have no disease-producing capability. A vaccine made up of inactive viruses cannot make you unwell.

MYTH 2: if you had a vaccine last year, you would not need one this year.

FACT: every year virologists across the world collaborate with each other and the World Health Organisation to predict the most likely three or four strains of flu that will become prevalent that year and how to combat them. Many people would be surprised by the number of different flu strains there are, and shocked by how much the annual flu jab changes from year to year.

The reality is that flu strains vary so much from year to the next that previous vaccinations may offer little to no protection, meaning the only safe way to protect yourself is to have a further jab every autumn.

MYTH 3: wait until winter to get your flu jab and you will be protected for the whole flu season.

FACT: flu vaccinations are designed to provide protection for the whole season and there is no advantage to waiting until later in the flu season to receive your vaccination. Having it in October gives the flu jab plenty of time to work before the worst of the flu season arrives.

Putting it off for too long can also put you at risk of catching flu before you have your vaccination.

MYTH 4: you should only have a flu jab from your GP or it won’t be as effective.

FACT: the NHS has been using partner agencies such as pharmacists and convenient locations to deliver the flu jab for many years now. Tesco, Asda, Lloyds and Boots pharmacies, along with many more, are all providing this service. However, you would be well-advised to ensure it is an official NHS partner prior to having the service.

MYTH 5: I am fit and healthy; I do not need the flu jab and cannot pass the flu to vulnerable people.

FACT: often family and professional carers will not have the flu vaccine because they do not want to use a vaccination that could be given to a more vulnerable person. However, just like with COVID-19, a person can contract the flu virus and pass it on to more vulnerable people, even if they do not show any symptoms. If you are caring for or live with anybody in the at-risk group, you should talk to a healthcare expert to see if you should also have the flu jab.

Find out more about the flu and the flu vaccine by visiting the NHS flu vaccine website page.

For more information or if you wish to discuss care for your loved one please email