By Dr. Mallika Marshall

BOSTON (CBS) – As we head into the heart of flu season, Dr. Mallika Marshall provides the facts you need to know to keep you and your family safe.

The time to get vaccinated against the flu is now. The vaccine is widely available at doctor’s offices and pharmacies and it take a couple of weeks to build immunity to the flu and the flu season has started. Massachusetts has seen at least 80 lab-confirmed cases of influenza so far, which is typical for this time of year. Plus, a child in Florida has already died from the flu. She was healthy but had not been vaccinated.

Getting the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself but a new national survey by Orlando Health found that a shocking number of parents are skeptical about the flu vaccine. For example, 30-percent of parents believe the flu shot is a conspiracy and almost as many believe that it causes autism.

These myths are absolutely untrue and here are some other flu vaccine myths out there:

  • More than 50-percent of parents believe their child can get the flu from the flu shot. Not true. Flu vaccines contain either killed or weakened virus that are not capable of causing the flu. One reason people believe this is that they get vaccinated in the fall and winter when other circulating viruses are causing cold and flu-like symptoms. They get the vaccine and then get sick and think the two are related. They’re not.
  • Some people do get achy and tired after getting the vaccine but that’s usually just the immune system mounting a response.
  • A third of parents believe that the flu vaccine doesn’t work. It’s true that the effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from year to year because scientists have to do some guess work when formulating the vaccine and sometimes it’s not the best match. But even if the vaccine is a poor match one year, it certainly provides better protection that nothing.
  • One of the most common myths is, “I’m not going to get vaccinated because I never get the flu.” If you have ever had the flu, you’ll do just about anything to keep from having it again. You really feel like you’ve been run over by a bus. So even if you’ve never had the flu before or you think you’re too healthy to get it, don’t gamble because your luck may eventually run out. And even if you think you’re invincible, by getting vaccinated, you’re also protecting the people around you: your children, your parents, and your co-workers.
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