It’s about that time of year again when it seems like almost everyone has a cough and a cold. In addition to washing your hands, one of the best things you can do to protect yourself during cold and flu season is to get a flu shot.

Hospitals go through great lengths to get their staff vaccinated, which is a testament to the importance of flu shots. New York law says that healthcare workers must either get the flu shot or wear a protective mask when around patients. Rates of vaccination among hospitals are published, with each hospital competing for the highest rate.

At Better Health Advisors, we receive many questions about the flu and the flu shot. Here are six common flu myths, debunked.

  1. MYTH: I got a flu shot last year, so I don’t need one this year.
    FACT: The flu virus changes every year, so while last year’s flu shot may provide you slight protection, you need to get one every year to get the full effect.
  2. MYTH: You can get the flu from the flu shot.
    FACT: You cannot get the flu from the flu shot. However, it takes about two weeks for the flu shot to become effective, so it is possible that you could develop the flu during that window. It is also possible to get another illness that mimics flu symptoms, which can sometimes be confused with the flu.
  3. MYTH: The flu shot is 100% effective.
    FACT: Some years the flu shot is more effective than others. Scientists predict which strains of the virus will be prominent and create the vaccine accordingly. However, it is impossible to know for sure what the virus will look like.
  4. MYTH: Vaccines can cause autism.
    FACT: There is absolutely no evidence that vaccines cause autism. In the 1990s a study came out linking the MMR vaccine to autism, but this study was later retracted. No other studies have been able to replicate the results.
  5. MYTH: I don’t need to get a flu shot until December.
    FACT: Experts recommend you get the flu shot as early as October for the best protection.
  6. MYTH: I have to make an appointment with my PCP to get a flu shot.
    FACT: In addition to being available at your internal medicine doctor’s office, flu shots are also available at many local pharmacies, urgent care centers and hospitals. Students can often get flu shots at their university health center.

At Better Health Advisors, we consider immunizations to be one of the most important items for great healthcare. To find out where you can get a flu shot, go to vaccinefinder.org