September 16, 2020

You can’t get the flu from a flu shot

Note to journalists: A high-res photo of Libby Richards and a high-res photo of a Purdue student receiving a flu shot are available in a Google Drive. Richards is available for phone or web-based video interviews. Please contact Matthew Oates at for information. Journalists visiting campus should follow visitor health guidelines.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the nation prepares for a flu season amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, several myths and misconceptions about the flu vaccine will reappear.

The most common reason that people avoid getting the annual flu vaccine is that they believe they will get the flu from it.

That’s not the case, said Libby Richards, an associate professor of nursing who specializes in public health in Purdue University’s School of Nursing in the College of Health and Human Sciences

Richards said the flu vaccine is made with inactive strains of the flu virus, which are not capable of causing the flu.

“People may feel under the weather after receiving the flu shot due to signs of the body creating an immune response, which is actually a good thing,” she said. “Common side effects from flu shots are muscle soreness at the site of the injection. Some people may also develop a low-grade fever, headache or overall muscle aches. These side effects can be mistaken for the flu, but in reality, are likely the body’s normal response to vaccination.”

richards-flu Libby Richards, associate professor of nursing in Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences. (Purdue University photo/Rebecca McElhoe)

Two types of flu vaccinations have been developed. If a person receives the three-component vaccination, it will provide protection from two strains of influenza type A and one strain of influenza type B. The four-component vaccine will provide protection against two strains of influenza type A and B.

Richards said now is the time to get one’s flu shot. Some employers provide free or discounted flu vaccinations at the workplace. Flu shots can be obtained through local health care providers, drugstores or big box store pharmacies or medical clinics, and local health departments.

“Flu cases are expected to start increasing early in October and may last late into May,” Richards said. “This makes September and early October the ideal time to get your flu shot.”

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Writer, Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-586-7496 (cell),, @mo_oates

Source: Libby Richards, 

Related releases:

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get a flu shot (Aug. 31, 2020)

The Conversation: Getting a flu shot this year is more important than ever because of COVID-19 (Aug. 19, 2020)

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