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Message from the Health Officer for Los Angeles County
Muntu Davis, MD, MPH


October 25, 2019


Common Myths About Flu Immunization – It’s Time to Have an Honest Talk

Dear LA County Community,

Influenza (“flu”) season in Los Angeles County runs from October to the end of March 2020, and this season could be a particularly bad one. Despite many studies proving immunization as the best defense against catching the flu, many people still avoid this defense because they believe the myths associated with getting vaccinated. So, this month, I’d like to share some of the more common falsehoods about the flu vaccination, in hopes that this year, EVERYONE who is medically able, will protect themselves and their loved ones, and get immunized.

“It’s too early for flu immunization.”

  • While it may feel too early to think about the flu, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that vaccination occur before the onset of influenza activity in the community to ensure the best protection against the virus.
  • The flu immunization, like other vaccines, works best through what is called “herd immunity,” meaning the more people that get the vaccine the less the disease is to spread.
  • Children ages six months to eight years, who require two doses of the flu vaccine, should get their first immunization as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available, because they are particularly susceptible to serious flu complications. LA County experienced its first flu death this month, a stark reminder that getting vaccinated early can save lives.

“I am healthy and don’t need the flu immunization.”

  • Anyone can get the flu, and serious problems related to the flu can happen at any age. Flu deaths have been recorded in otherwise healthy young adults.
  • People 65 years and older, anyone of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than 5 years face higher risk of developing serious complications if they get sick with the flu.
  • When healthy people get immunized, they keep those around them healthy as well.

“I can get the flu from taking the flu vaccine itself.”

  • The virus in the flu vaccine is not active, which means that you cannot get the flu infection from immunization. Mild side effects, including soreness, headaches, fever and nausea, may occur in some people after immunization. These are short term effects of your body mounting an immune response and should not be mistaken for an onset of the flu.
  • While the flu vaccine protects you against the worst of the worst, sometimes you may still be susceptible to less severe viruses.

“The flu vaccine causes autism.”

  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has thoroughly studied this issue and has found no link between vaccines and autism.

“I got the flu immunization last year, I don’t think I need it again this year.”

  • Each year the flu season is different, and the strains of the flu are different from year to year. It is important to be protected each year against the most recent flu strains that could otherwise cause serious illnesses. Th CDC recommends routine annual flu vaccination to address these seasonal changes.

Additional Steps

While the flu vaccine remains the best defense against the flu, you can take additional steps to help protect yourself and your family from the flu and other viruses. Those steps include the following:

  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water.
  • Use an alcohol-based sanitizer on your hands if soap and water aren't available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
  • Avoid crowds when the flu is most prevalent in your area.
  • Practice good health habits.
  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids, eat a nutritious diet and manage your stress.
  • Stay home if you do get sick.

As a physician and a parent, I hope that debunking these common misperceptions encourages everyone to do what’s best for themselves and their families and get immunized today.

To your good health,

Muntu Davis, MD, MPH

Los Angeles County Health Officer

 



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