Can You Get the Flu From a Flu Shot? Experts Weigh In

October 17, 2018, 6:22 PM UTC

Flu season is upon us and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that everyone get a flu shot this year, from ages six months old and up. But some people might wonder, can you get the flu from a flu shot? Here’s what the experts say.

In short, the answer is no—you cannot get the flu from getting a flu shot, experts say. But you can get flu-like symptoms, in some cases.

“No, flu vaccines cannot cause flu illness,” the CDC states.

Because the flu shot contains inactivated viruses—or only uses a single gene from a flu virus— it’s not possible to get the flu from the shot, according to the agency. If people experience flu-like symptoms after getting the shot, it’s possible that the shot didn’t work, or that you didn’t get the shot early enough. Similarly, flu-like symptoms are not the actual flu.

Read More: How Effective is the 2018 Flu Shot?

“You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases told CBS, responding to an Orlando Health survey that found 53% of respondents believed flu vaccines can cause children to get sick with flu. “Influenza vaccine is safe.”

Some people can develop flu-like symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, due to a reaction caused by your body producing protective antibodies; having been already exposed to the virus—it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to be effective; or from mismatched flu viruses—the annual shot may not contain the strain of flu virus you have been exposed to.

“We really want people to understand that you can’t get the flu from the flu shot,” Jean Moorjani, a pediatrician at Orlando Health, told Health.

The flu is a common viral infection, that in serious cases can be deadly. During the 2017-2018 flu season, an estimated 80,000 people died from the virus and complications associated with it, CNN reported. Last year’s flu season was the deadliest in more than 40 years.

There are a couple of options to get vaccinated to prevent the flu. There’s the classic flu shot administered with a needle; and there’s the jet injector vaccination, a needle-free option that uses a high-pressure stream of fluid with an injection gun, as seen here. Another option is the nasal spray, where a doctor sprays the vaccine into your nose.