The Influenza Vaccine Does Not Make You Sick

Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year.

You’ve probably heard this before from friends or family: ‘I don’t get a flu shot because it makes me sick.’

This is a myth. The reality is that the flu vaccine cannot make you sick.

“The viruses in the flu vaccine are dead or ‘inactivated’ and cannot be infectious or cause illness,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “The most common side effects from the flu shot are soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given.”

Wooten explained that some people may experience a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches which would lead them to think they got sick. If these reactions occur, they usually begin after getting vaccinated and last 1-2 days.

“When this happens, the reactions are considerably milder and less severe that the symptoms caused by the flu which can last up to two weeks,” Wooten explained. “Get vaccinated now before the flu starts to spread.

For the week ending Oct. 21, 2017, the Health and Human Services Agency Influenza Watch report shows the following:

  • Emergency department visits for influenza-like illness: 1 percent of all visits (the same as the previous week)
  • Lab-confirmed influenza cases for the week: 27 (down from 37 the previous week)
  • Total influenza deaths to date: 1 (compared to 1 at this time last season)
  • Total lab-confirmed influenza cases to date: 285 (compared to 89 last season)

Your Best Shot Against the Flu

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot every year. The vaccine is safe and effective. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop.

Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from influenza. They include:

  • People with chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and lung disease, even if symptoms are under control
  • Pregnant women
  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live with or care for others who are at higher risk

In addition to getting vaccinated, people should also do the following to avoid getting sick:

  • Wash hands thoroughly and often
  • Use hand sanitizers
  • Stay away from sick people
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Clean commonly touched surfaces
  • If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others

The flu vaccine is available at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. If you don’t have medical insurance, you can go to a County public health center to get vaccinated. For a list of locations, visit or call 2-1-1.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact