Millions of parents in America have reservations about their child getting the flu shot, but it has nothing to do with developing autism. A recent survey shows that more than a half of parents believe their child can get the flu from the vaccine itself, while a third simply believes it doesn’t work.
The 2017 flu season was one of the most severe on record in the United States, with 180 child deaths blamed on influenza. The consensus in the medical community is that flu shots are safe for use in adults and children, and that — hands down — it is the best way to prevent infection and combat the spread of the virus.
But this survey, conducted by medical researchers at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, shows that many parents still feel nervous about the vaccine despite its overwhelming support by doctors.
“With any medication or vaccine, people are going to have concerns,” says Dr. Jean Moorjani, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health, in a statement. “Because information can come from so many places, from friends and family to the internet, it’s important to talk to a doctor you trust to get credible information that is based in science and facts.”
The flu vaccine works by exposing the body to a small part of the virus, which allows the body’s white blood cells and other infection responses to adapt to the trio of strains typically found in each shot. The parts of the virus in the vaccine are long-dead cells, so doctors say there’s no risk of contracting the virus from the vaccine itself. The body takes up to two weeks to develop the correct responses to the flu after receiving the vaccine, so if one contracts the disease immediately after getting vaccinated, they could still get sick, experts warn.
Of course, the belief that the vaccine causes autism has been a topic of debate for many years, with 28% of respondents in this latest survey believing that it does. Three in ten respondents believe the flu shot is actually a conspiracy. Still, doctors insist it’s simply not true.
“After years of research, we know that the flu vaccine is safe,” says Moorjani. “The flu shot does not cause autism or any other diseases or illnesses. Doctors recommend the flu shot because it is the best way to protect you and your family from the flu.”
Medical experts recommend every healthy person over the age of six months get a flu shot every year to protect themselves and slow the spread of the disease through large populations.