Flu Shots: Fact or Fiction?

You may have heard that flu season is early this year, sweeping through Asia at alarming rates. This means that the best time to get vaccinated is right now! Have your doubts? Read on as Beijing United Family (BJU) Director of Pharmacy, Helen Zhang separates fact from fiction when it comes to the flu shot.


Each year, the WHO meets to decide on the composition of the influenza vaccine for the coming flu season. This year we will have a new type A strain, A/Michigan (H1N1)-like virus. The other two strains, A/Hong Kong (H3N2) and B/Brisbane, are same as last year.

According to data from China’s Center for Disease Control, the current flu virus in circulation is caused by A/H3N2, which this year’s flu vaccine protects against.

1. FICTION: The flu is just like a bad cold

Influenza, or the flu, is far more dangerous than a bad cold. It’s a disease of the lungs, and it can lead to pneumonia. Each year, many people around the world die because of the flu.


2. FICTION: The flu shot can give you the flu

Flu vaccines are made from killed influenza viruses. These cannot give you the flu.

3. FACT: Even if I get the flu shot, I can still get the flu

This can happen, but the flu shot usually protects most people from the flu. However, the flu shot will not protect you from other viruses that can cause illnesses, like the common cold.

4. FICTION: The vaccine is not 100% effective, so I’m better off getting the flu

No vaccine is 100% effective. However, if you get a flu shot but still get the flu, you are likely to be far less sick than you would have been without the protection.

5. FICTION: The side-effects of the flu shot are worse than the flu

The worst side-effect you’re likely to suffer from is a sore arm. The risk of a rare allergic reaction is far less than the risk of severe complications from influenza.

6. FACT: Not everyone can get the flu shot

The flu vaccine may not be suitable for you if you have had a severe allergic reaction to eggs (used in making the vaccine), neomycin, or to the flu vaccine in the past. If you are very ill with a high fever, you will need to postpone the injection.


7. FICTION: I don’t need a shot this year because I already got the flu shot last year

Even though the flu vaccine composition this year is same as last year, getting vaccinated annually is still recommended because the flu shot only protects you effectively for six months. After that, the level of protection declines dramatically.

8. FICTION: Only the very old and the very sick need to get the flu shot

Both adults and children who are in good health need the flu shot to stay healthy. Even if you aren’t at a high risk of experiencing complications, you should get the flu shot to prevent the flu and to protect everyone you live with and come into contact with – especially if you are living with elderly people or young babies, or are taking care of sick family members.

9. FICTION: I can’t get the flu shot because I am pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breastfeeding

The flu vaccine is safe for the baby and the mother. It will help prevent complications resulting from severe influenza and is recommended by both the United States and Chinese Centers for Disease Control. If you are in the first trimester of your pregnancy, please talk with your doctor about the flu vaccine.


10. I am too busy to get the flu shot

Here’s what you can do:

Flu shots are available now in our main hospital and at select satellite clinics (see the table below). While the best time to get a flu shot is October or November, getting the vaccine in December or later will still protect you. For most cases, a doctor’s appointment is not necessary (except for children under the age of 3).


This article was written by Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU) Director of Pharmacy, Helen Zhang. She is a registered pharmacist in China and the USA. If you want to receive your flu shot, please make an appointment with a nurse by calling our service center at 4008-919191. The vaccine is available at the following locations, at the following times:



  2. 流感疫苗预防接种技术指导意见 2015中国疾病预防控制中心