5 myths about flu shots

Flu Myths

Bust these five myths about flu shots and grow your business

In brief:

  • The CDC recommends a flu shot for almost everyone, but less than 50% of Americans get one
  • Many people believe myths: flu shots don’t work, I don’t need one, or it could make me sick
  • Bust these myths (and others) to keep your customers healthy and to grow your business

Flu immunization rates lag

Good news

Bad news

In 2018, the number of children and adults who had received flu vaccines was up more than 6%.1

Still, less than half the population is being immunized for the flu

Too few children and adults are getting flu shots:

  • While about 90% of young children receive recommended early childhood immunizations, only 50% receive the flu shot.
  • Among adults 18–49, just 34.2% get a flu shot.2

Don’t let your patients suffer from the flu when a shot could have prevented it. Take time to understand patients’ reluctance to be immunized and strike down these myths.

MYTH: The flu isn’t really a big deal.
Truth: The flu is a killer, literally and figuratively.

In 2017–18, 79,000 Americans died from the flu.3 That’s more than the number who died in car accidents. Anyone who thinks the flu isn’t awful probably has never had the flu. (People often think they have had the flu when they really haven’t.)

In 2017–18, 79,000 Americans died from the flu.

Source: CDC

The minor inconvenience of a poke in the arm far outweighs days spent feeling miserable and the risk of something worse.

MYTH: The flu vaccine doesn’t work.
Truth: No vaccine is perfect. A person can get a flu shot and still get the flu. But the vaccine decreases the number of people who get sick and is believed to decrease the severity of those who get the flu.

A vaccine that is 40 to 60% effective may not sound very good, but that masks its real impact. The CDC estimates that in 2016–17, the flu vaccine prevented:

  • 3 million influenza illnesses
  • 6 million medical visits
  • 85,000 hospitalizations4

A vaccine is a layer of protection. Wearing a seat belt won’t prevent a car accident or an injury in an accident, but it decreases the risk. Same thing with a flu shot.

Studies also suggest that symptoms may be less severe in patients who have received the vaccine, with lower rates of death and fewer immunization recipients admitted to the ICU.5

MYTH: The vaccine will make me sick and may even give me the flu.
Truth: Patients don’t get the flu from a flu shot.

Be clear about symptoms that patients may experience, such as a sore arm or a low-grade fever. Also, be clear about the symptoms they avoid by not getting the full-blown effects of the flu.

MYTH: I don’t need the vaccine because I am healthy.
Truth: Anyone, even healthy people, can get the flu and can suffer life-threatening complications.

Make sure to educate healthy people that they are still at risk. But perhaps even more important, even if a person is healthy, they can carry the flu to others — like a young child or a grandparent. Even healthy people will want to get a shot to avoid getting others sick.

MYTH: The best approach for pharmacies is to ASK patients if they would like to get a flu vaccine.
TRUTH: A better approach is to make getting flu shots the standard practice for all patients in your pharmacy. Focus on “when” and not “if.”

Change the mindset of your staff and patients. Instead of asking patients if they want to opt-in to receive a flu shot, assume that all patients will want a flu shot unless they choose to opt out as an exception to your standard practice.

Don’t ask, “Would you like to receive a flu vaccine when you pick up your medications this month?” Instead, say, “We can make sure to take care of your flu vaccine this month when you pick up your medications. Remember to wear a short-sleeved shirt.” Then if the patient hesitates or says they don’t want the vaccine, explain the benefits to the patient.

Refute these myths, grow your business

By being aware of these common myths and by training your staff to refute them, you can administer more flu shots this year. The result: fewer of your patients will get the flu. They will be healthier and their risk of contracting the flu will decrease, as will the risk of spreading the flu to others. And your pharmacy will provide more flu shots, while changing the mindset of patients so that flu shots are considered standard practice for patients of all ages.

1 Early-Season Flu Vaccination Coverage–United States, November 2018,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dec. 14, 2018. LINK
2 “Influenza,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jan. 27, 2015. LINK
3 “Estimated Influenza Illnesses, Medical Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths in the United States — 2017–2018 Influenza Season,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dec. 18, 2018. LINK
4 “Vaccine Effectiveness: How Well Do the Flu Vaccines Work?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oct. 12, 2018. LINK
5 “Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sept. 6, 2018. LINK