Flu Shot Facts from Tacoma OBGYN Dr. Adam Nickel

At Nickel Obstetrics and Gynecologist in Tacoma, we believe that preventing the flu is essential. The flu vaccine prevents not only you from getting sick, but your loved ones around you as well.

Dr. Adam Nickel, your Tacoma OBGYN, stresses the importance of understanding the myths and facts surrounding the flu and the vaccine.


Let’s get our facts straight on the flu vaccine. It’s that time of year that viruses are lurking everywhere. Rather than walking around with masks and gloves, let’s talk about the flu vaccine and its positive effects in prevention.

Prevention is key here at our OBGYN practice in Tacoma, and the flu vaccine is a way to prevent illness and disease that has potentially extreme and permanent effects on your health. We also advise our expecting patients to receive the flu vaccine to protect not only their newborn, but also a recovering mother from suffering from the flu after childbirth.

Liz Szabo on USA Today discusses the myths regarding the flu virus:

Myth 1: The flu is just a bad cold.

A cold is an annoyance. The flu kills up to 49,000 people a year and hospitalizes 200,000, the CDC says. Last year, 114 children died. Flu symptoms tend to appear suddenly, unlike a cold. People who get H1N1 (swine flu) are often laid up for a week with fever, body aches, sore throat, fatigue, headaches and a runny or congested nose, says the CDC.

Myth 2: The flu shot causes the flu.

About 35% of consumers think the flu vaccine can cause flu, CVS found. But that’s impossible, CDC says, because the viruses in the flu shot are dead. Its most common side effect is a sore arm. Mist nasal spray contains weakened viruses, so they don’t cause severe symptoms, either. Side effects in kids can include a runny nose, wheezing and headache.

Myth 3: New “combined” shots are riskier than older ones.

This year’s shot, which protects against both H1N1 and seasonal flu, 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 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.

Myth 4: Only sickly people need a flu shot.

Half of consumers think flu shots are only for kids or sick people, CVS found. Actually, the most vulnerable members of society, such as newborns or those with weak immune systems, often can’t get flu shots. The only way to protect them is to vaccinate everyone around them, keeping flu viruses out of circulation, Bergen says. Because babies can’t be vaccinated until they’re 6 months old, they depend on vaccinated friends and family members to create a “cocoon” of protection , Bergen says.

Myth 5: Flu shots contain toxic chemicals such as mercury.

About 14% of those surveyed said flu shots were dangerous. Concerns about mercury have revolved around a preservative called thimerosal, once commonly used in vaccines but mostly phased out since 2001 . Today, no thimerosal is added to FluMist nasal spray or to flu shots from single-dose containers, says Paul Offit, infectious-disease expert atChildren’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Companies add thimerosal to only flu vaccine stored in multi-dose vials, to prevent fungus or other potentially dangerous germs, Bergen says. There’s no evidence that the low levels of thimerosal in shots cause any harm, says Offit. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury, not methyl mercury, the type that can cause brain damage, he says. The low levels of ethyl mercury found in multi-dose flu shots have never been shown to cause harm, Offt says. There’s also no data to prove that thimerosal causes autism, either, Offit adds. In fact, seven studies now refute that idea. Offit notes that flu shots don’t use aluminum, which is used in other vaccines as an “adjuvant” to stimulate a stronger immune response.

 Please call our office on Tacoma, WA to schedule a visit and get your flu vaccine. We are hear to answer any questions, and Dr. Adam Nickel, OBGYN, treats patients in the surrounding Tacoma area.