5 myths about the flu:
In a new survey by Consumer Reports, only 30% of respondents were "very confident" that this year's flu shot is safe.
That leaves many doctors and scientists perplexed. Of all the many things to fear in the world, they say, vaccines should be at the bottom of the list. USA TODAY's Liz Szabo talked to vaccine safety experts to address some of the most common myths.
Myth 1: The flu shot causes the flu.
The viruses in the flu shot are dead, so they can't give people the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its most common side effect is soreness in the arm.
FluMist nasal spray contains weakened viruses, so they don't cause severe, ...view middle of the document...
California obstetrician-gynecologist Jennifer Gunter says her 7-year-old son, Oliver, who was born prematurely, has been hospitalized for the flu twice. Both times, he came home from the hospital with an oxygen machine. Gunter caught H1N1 last year, before the vaccine was available.
"It was horrible," Gunter says. "I was off work for six days until I was no longer infectious."
In developed countries, influenza kills more people than any other vaccine-preventable disease, says pediatrician Jon Abramson of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and Families Fighting Flu, a non-profit health group.
Myth 3: This year's shot — which protects against both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines — is riskier than earlier versions.
Actually, the new flu shot was made the same way as every other flu shot, says Randy Bergen of Kaiser Permanente in Walnut Creek, Calif.
Every year, vaccine makers include circulating viral strains that are most likely to cause illness. Typically, these include two influenza A strains — an H1N1 and an H3N2 — and a strain of influenza B, Abramson says.
This year, manufacturers included the H1N1 strain that caused pandemic last year, Abramson says.
All drugs, including "natural" supplements and vitamins, have side effects. But the safety of vaccines is actually tracked more closely than just about any other drug. Unlike most medicines, "we have more hard facts when it comes to the flu shot," Gunter says.
Through the National Adverse Event Reporting System, investigators check out every serious side effect that people experience after getting a flu shot. Most aren't related to the flu vaccine. In fact, there were no deaths attributed to the H1N1 vaccine last year, Gunter says.
Myth 4: Only sick people need a flu shot.
While older people and newborns are usually at greatest risk for complications, swine flu is actually most threatening to the young.
Typically, about 90% of flu deaths are in people over 65. Last year, however, about 90% of flu deaths were in people under 30. About 10% of flu deaths last year were in children, according to the CDC.
When healthy people get vaccinated, it can help protect the weak, including cancer...