Will a flu shot make you tired?

Influenza Shot - Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Opinions are divided about the flu shot. Supporters and opponents face each other almost irreconcilably. Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the flu vaccination.

Proponents argue that vaccination saves human lives and offers especially the risk groups (chronically ill, people over 60 and pregnant women) the most effective - if not complete - protection against influenza infection. The vaccination critics point to the inadequate effect of the flu vaccination and to alleged or actual vaccination risks from vaccines in general. Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions about the flu vaccination.

Common questions about the flu and flu shots

  • Which groups of people are particularly at risk from the flu?
  • How widespread is the flu anyway?
  • How well does the flu shot protect?
  • Why doesn't the flu shot protect against all flu viruses?
  • Why is there no vaccine against all flu viruses?
  • Which flu viruses does the current flu vaccine protect against?
  • Can I get infected from the flu shot?
  • Who is the flu shot for?
  • What are the side effects of the vaccination?
  • How dangerous are the vaccine complications you keep reading about?
  • Are there any toxic metals in the flu vaccines?
  • What drugs fight the flu?
  • How can I protect myself against the flu without a vaccination?
  • How many people get the flu vaccine?


Which groups of people are particularly at risk from the flu?

Although children get the flu more than average, they usually did not have a flu vaccination. Exception: The children are chronically ill and have a reduced immune system. The flu infection is more dangerous than average for all men, women and children with a reduced physical resistance. The Standing Vaccination Commission (STIKO) of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) therefore recommends vaccination against influenza for these groups of people. Also for adults over 60, pregnant women and all professional groups who frequently deal with children and / or many people. This applies, for example, to bus drivers and employees at a supermarket checkout as well as to employees at a baggage counter or in health professions.

In adults, for example, the immune system is weakened by chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart failure or asthma. Taking medication such as immunosuppressants (after transplants or for the treatment of autoimmune diseases) also weakens the body's defenses. Older people are particularly at risk because the performance of the immune system decreases over the years. Children under the age of 12 have an increased risk of flu because their immune systems are not yet adequately developed. In addition, children in kindergarten or school are particularly exposed to the flu viruses and other germs. Nevertheless, the Standing Vaccination Commission of the Robert Koch Institute expressly points out in its vaccination recommendations that the flu vaccination is only recommended for children and young people with other diseases. In other words, healthy children and adolescents generally do not need a flu shot.


How widespread is the flu anyway?

The likelihood of catching the flu depends on many factors. For an otherwise healthy adult with a good immune system, the spread of the flu is a particularly important factor. The more often you are exposed to the flu virus, the higher the chance that the flu virus will establish itself. In healthy adults, this is the case in 2 to 10 cases per 100 people, depending on whether the flu is rampant or less common. In children and young adults, this value is significantly higher with 10 to 20 flu infections per 100.

How well does the flu shot protect?

In principle, the flu vaccination does not protect 100 percent against flu infection. This is because the vaccines do not reliably fight all strains of the flu virus. For example, most of the vaccines against the 2014/2015 flu wave did not offer optimal protection against the H3N2 strain of flu viruses. According to calculations by the Robert Koch Institute, this reduced the protective effect to an average value of 27 percent. But it is also correct: On average over the past few years, the flu vaccines have reliably protected around 60 percent of all those vaccinated.

Why doesn't the flu shot protect against all flu viruses?

Influenza viruses are diverse forms of life that are constantly changing. For the development of a vaccine, these changes are observed in flu centers of the World Health Organization (WHO) around the world. Since one roughly knows the speed and direction of spread of the viruses, it is possible to predict which flu viruses will arrive when and where. Appropriate vaccines are produced for these regions accordingly. The vaccines that are used in Germany are the result of virus monitoring in Asia and Australia. For example, there is about half a year between the time the virus was identified in the Australian winter and the flu vaccine was delivered in Europe. During this period of time, the flu viruses change from time to time. That explains why these flu viruses don't respond to the vaccine. It also happens that strains of flu viruses spread differently than predicted.

Why is there no vaccine against all flu viruses?

The number of different strains of flu and their individual subspecies of viruses is simply too large. A corresponding vaccine would be too expensive - and possibly not even be able to be produced. Therefore, the effectiveness of the flu vaccine is usually limited to three or four strains of the virus. We speak of trivalent and tetravalent vaccines. Many vaccination advocates complain that the statutory health insurance companies in Germany usually only reimburse the costs for vaccination with a triple vaccine (trivalent). In fact, it can be shown that quadruple vaccines (tetravalent) have a broader effect against the flu viruses.

Which flu viruses does the current flu vaccine protect against?

The composition of the flu vaccines changes from year to year. According to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), the following vaccines are approved for 2017 on the recommendation of the World Health Organization:

  • Triple vaccines (trivalent vaccines) against the flu virus strains A / Michigan / 45/2015 (H1N1), A / Hong Kong / 4801/2014 (H3N2) and B / Brisbane / 60/2008
  • Quadruple vaccines (quadrivalent vaccines): additionally B / Phuket / 3073/2013.

Can I get infected from the flu shot?

With an influenza vaccination, the transmission of influenza is impossible. Vaccination does not infect you with the flu. The only exception: there are flu vaccines with live flu viruses. However, they are usually only used for children. Whether or not a flu shot will transmit the disease depends on the vaccine you choose. With the so-called dead vaccines, as they are used in the majority, a transmission of the influenza viruses is excluded. The situation is different with live vaccines, such as those used in nasal spray vaccines for children. Live influenza viruses are contained in these vaccines and, under adverse circumstances, can cause infection. For this reason, live vaccines are not suitable for chronically ill people, with impaired physical defenses or current respiratory infections.

Who is the flu shot for?

For the vast majority of healthy people, most experts believe that the flu shot is well suited. A current cold or other infections should have subsided before the vaccination appointment. Most flu vaccines are also unsuitable for people who are allergic to chicken protein. If you have ever had a severe allergic reaction to chicken protein or other vaccinations, please inform your doctor.

What are the side effects of the vaccination?

In the vast majority of cases, the flu vaccination has hardly any side effects. Local reactions at the injection site such as redness, swelling or itching usually disappear within a few hours. In some cases, you experience a fever, tiredness, or a stuffy nose. The latter especially in children who are vaccinated with a so-called live vaccine in a nasal spray.

How dangerous are the vaccine complications you keep reading about?

Dangerous vaccination complications are described in the scientific literature as very rare exceptions. The Paul Ehrlich Institute examines the connection between vaccinations and possible side effects. In 2012, the PEI registered a total of 1,551 so-called suspected cases for all vaccinations, not just the flu vaccination. In none of these cases could a connection between the vaccination and a vaccination complication be proven. For 85 cases from this year, the PEI describes a connection as likely. Overall, the PEI rates the flu vaccination as safe. The risk of side effects in terms of vaccination complications is below the statistical mean value for healthy people. Detailed information on vaccination complications at the Paul Ehrlich Institute

Are there any toxic metals in the flu vaccines?

One of the most common arguments against vaccination is that vaccines contain metals in dangerous levels. Most often aluminum and mercury are mentioned. For example, vaccination critics refer to the mercury-containing vaccine Pandemrix, which was used against swine flu. Here the mercury was in the preservative thimerosal. Commercially available flu vaccinations do not contain this preservative at all - and therefore also no mercury. Other warnings apply to the aluminum content of vaccines. Vaccination critics point to controversial studies, according to which aluminum from vaccines promotes multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Both diseases severely damage the nervous and muscular system. In fact, current flu vaccines contain an aluminum salt, aluminum hydroxide, as an adjuvant. However, the Paul Ehrlich Institute sees no connection between the diseases mentioned and aluminum in vaccines. At 0.125 to 0.82 milligrams, the concentrations are far below the critical limit (1.25 milligrams).

What drugs fight the flu?

The effect of drugs against the flu is very controversial among medical professionals. Virus-inhibiting drugs are sometimes prescribed for high-risk patients such as the chronically ill, the elderly, pregnant women or children under the age of 12. The effect of these so-called neuraminidase inhibitors such as oseltamivir or zanamivir is usually very limited. Even the manufacturer of the well-known virus inhibitor Tamiflu (active ingredient oseltamivir) comes to the conclusion in its own study that Tamiflu only shortens the flu by one day. This minor effect is offset by side effects such as severe allergic - sometimes life-threatening - reactions, liver diseases, gastrointestinal complaints or headaches. The active ingredient is not at all suitable for asthmatics.

How can I protect myself against the flu without a vaccination?

Simple hygiene practices such as sneezing or coughing in your elbows go a long way towards reducing the risk of catching the flu. This also applies to regular hand washing. In addition to the flu vaccination, careful hygiene and a good body's own defense system reduce the risk of infection. Wash your hands several times a day. A disinfectant is usually not necessary, a simple hand wash or soap is sufficient. Hand smear infections are one of the main routes for transmission of the flu virus. Doorknobs, light switches or banknotes are means of transmission. With thorough hand washing, you have already made one of the most important transmission routes safer. When coughing or sneezing, you should refrain from supposedly good behavior. Do not hold your hand in front of your mouth or nose, but rather the crook of your arm. And turn away from people when you cough or sneeze. This reduces the risk of a so-called droplet infection. In addition, you should use disposable handkerchiefs - and these only once.

How many people get the flu vaccine?

The experts are certain that several thousand people would survive the annual flu wave if they were vaccinated against influenza. Nevertheless, the vaccination quota for all Germans is just 25 percent. In the risk groups it is a maximum of 50 percent. The most common reason for being drowsy or for not being vaccinated against the flu: Many Germans believe that vaccination would transmit the flu in the first place. And then there are the vaccine critics who point out health hazards posed by vaccines. But the flu is anything but a harmless cold or a flu-like infection. In particular for the sick, the elderly, pregnant women and children under 6 years of age, the flu is a potentially life-threatening illness. For the 2012/2013 flu wave alone, the Robert Koch Institute calculated 20,000 flu-related deaths for Germany.


Author: Charly Kahle

Status: 04.10.2017