Does a Flu Shot Increase Your Risk of Getting Other Respiratory Viruses?

Why do some folks think that getting a flu vaccine will make you more susceptible to getting sick with other respiratory viruses?

A flu shot does not make you more susceptible to getting other respiratory infections.
This year’s flu vaccine is not only 9% effective!

The usual suspects…

Does a Flu Shot Increase Your Risk of Getting Other Respiratory Viruses?

How would a flu shot increase your risk of getting other respiratory viruses?

There is actually a theory for how this might work.

“Receiving influenza vaccination may increase the risk of other respiratory viruses, a phenomenon known as virus interference.”

Greg Wolff on Influenza Vaccination and Respiratory Virus Interference Among Department of Defense Personnel During the 2017-2018 Influenza Season

Its called virus interference.

“The virus interference phenomenon goes against the basic assumption of the test-negative vaccine effectiveness study that vaccination does not change the risk of infection with other respiratory illness, thus potentially biasing vaccine effectiveness results in the positive direction.”

Greg Wolff on Influenza Vaccination and Respiratory Virus Interference Among Department of Defense Personnel During the 2017-2018 Influenza Season

Fortunately, while a few have, most studies have shown that getting a flu shot does not cause virus interference!

“It’s not clear why this finding was detected in the one study, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that this is not a common or regular occurrence and that influenza vaccination does not, in fact, make people more susceptible to other respiratory infections.”

CDC on Misconceptions about Seasonal Flu and Flu Vaccines

But why would a flu vaccine cause virus interference?

It is based on temporary nonspecific immunity, or the idea that after you get one respiratory virus, you then get protection against others for a few weeks because of your body’s innate immune response to that first infection.

So for the flu vaccine to cause this type of virus interference, making it more likely that you would get other respiratory infections, it would only be because your vaccine protected you from getting the flu!

You therefore didn’t have the innate immune response against the flu that might protect you against other respiratory viruses for a few weeks.

While that might be considered a benefit of getting sick with the flu, most studies have not actually found evidence of virus interference.

More on Flu Vaccine Benefits

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