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Surprising Science

Does the Flu Shot Give You the Flu?

Despite anecdotal evidence to the contrary, the flu shot makes it less likely that you will contract the flu. Studies show that we have a particularly strong mental reaction to getting a flu vaccine. 

What’s the Latest Development?

In a double-blind study on the effects of the flu vaccine, in which half the participants were given a placebo, the only side-effect reported more often in the group that received the real vaccine was soreness in the arm. The results demonstrate the powerful role the mind plays in how we receive (or not) our yearly flu vaccine. Because one version of the vaccine, a nasal spray which is becoming more popular in the US, contains a small amount of the live flu virus, there is a tendency to believe that your chances of contracting the flu increase after receiving the vaccine. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Although it’s not a perfect fix, the flu vaccine does make it less likely that you will contract the flu. Each year, the World Health Organization identifies three flu viruses they think are most likely to spread through the northern and southern hemisphere (thus people living in different hemisphere receive a different vaccine). “[A] large study from 2007 published in the highly regarded journal, The New England Journal of Medicine, found the vaccine protected seven out of ten people. Protection also varies from year to year, depending on the accuracy of the WHO’s predictions.”

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