Dr. Manny: Flu Shot Myths & Misinformation

Every year the CDC and many public health advocates urge the American public to pay attention to the flu season--specifically, to get vaccinated. Why? Because 36,000 people die each year from complications of the flu and 200,000 more are hospitalized.

Yet, just over one third of Americans get immunized each year.

I have tried to ask my self why there is such a reluctance to get the flu vaccine. Here are some of the myths and misinformation about flu shots, and what you need to know to protect yourself this flu season.

I will get sick from the flu shot.

Many people, including some of my co-workers, think they will sick from the flu shot. This is simply not true. The vaccine contains dead viruses. Typically, the vaccine contains three strains of influenza which scientist believe are most likely to be the strains that will infect people during the coming flu season. This is why it is important to take the shot every year because the viruses tend to change.

I missed the window to get my shot!!!!.

Just because the health officer at your work gave the company employees two weeks to get the free shot does not mean that the window has closed. The flu season extends well into May. So find your self another place to get vaccininated.

I called my primary care giver and they do not have any more flu vaccine.

I always get this excuse, and it is a problem I have experienced myself trying to get my own children vaccinated. One thing I think the CDC does a very poor job of is facilitating the availability of vaccines, and doing more to insure that individual health care providers get their supply of shots in a timely fashion.

This year, the CDC broadened their recommendation for flu shots beyond the usual high risk groups such as the elderly and patients with chronic diseases. They also stated that they expected vaccine production to exceed last year's and that this year would not see the shortages of the past two years. However, we are already hearing reports of doctors not having adequate supplies to meet the CDC's new guidelines.

The problem is that many physicians are left waiting while flu shot manufacturers fill orders for large corporate buyers. It's a good thing that big companies provide vaccinations for their employees, but it can leave the family doctor in rural America waiting for his supply of flu shots.

We tend to forget that primary care givers are in the front lines of attack when it comes to fighting infectious disease. Each year, the CDC and the FDA do a better job at correcting the distribution problem, but they need to do better. There is still time this flu season, and more work needs to be done to change attitudes about flu shots and to educate the health consumer.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. For more information on Dr. Manny's work, visit AskDrManny.com.