COLUMBIA, S.C. — Australia is wrapping up their flu season with a record number of confirmed flu cases. Those statistics may be a sign of things to come in the United States. Last week the Palmetto State recorded it’s first death from the flu.

The flu season comes with a lot of uncertainty, making it difficult for health officials to predict when cases will peak, and which flu strains will be most common in the United States.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the yearly the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting sick from influenza.

According to research from 2015, an estimated 43%, that’s nearly half of Americans believe the flu vaccine can give you the flu. That misconception comes from the vaccines side effects, which can cause feelings of discomfort including, a headache, low grade fever, muscle aches, tenderness, swelling, or redness at the injection site.

Can a flu vaccine give you the flu?

The vaccine contains inactivated, or dead, flu viruses or only a single gene from a flu virus (as opposed to the full virus) in order to produce an immune response without causing infection. Therefor it cannot get you sick with the flu.  When the vaccine is injected into a person's body, the immune system starts to develop antibodies to fight the illness. If a person encounters flu virus again, their body will recognize it and have the right antibodies to fight it.

In research studies people who received either a flu shot, or a placebo shot that contained just salt and water reported similar symptoms, including fever, cough, and runny nose, regardless of whether they received the vaccine or the placebo.  The only difference in symptoms more soreness at the injection site for those that received the actual flu vaccine.

Why did someone get the seasonal flu vaccination and still get sick with the flu?

There are several reasons why someone might get a flu symptom, even after they have been vaccinated against flu.

Many flu symptoms are the same as the common cold. Some people may think they have the flu but have a different viral or bacterial infection.

Another reason, when you receive a flu shot it takes about two weeks to develop immunity to the flu. It is possible to become infected with the virus during those fourteen days.

A third reason you may become sick, is because the vaccine represents researchers’ best predictions about which flu virus strains will be most common, but a person can still catch a strain of flu virus they are not immunized against.                      

The final explanation for experiencing flu symptoms after vaccination is that the flu vaccine can vary on how well it works, and some people will get sick despite being vaccinated.

Is it better to get the flu than the flu vaccine?

Most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people can develop complications, such as pneumonia which can be life-threatening. The takeaway any flu infection has the potential to be serious. For the majority of people there is no harm in getting the vaccine, just some possible discomfort from the shot.