False claims regarding the flu and flu vaccine circulate

In the past week, social media users have made numerous false claims about the flu vaccine. Some physicians on social media are claiming the flu vaccine is ineffective. Other social media users are expressing concerns about the safety of flu vaccine ingredients, alleging the vaccine contains mercury, E. coli, cow serum, detergents, chloride, gelatin, ethanol, and formaldehyde. Finally, a viral recipe known as the "flu bomb" claims to offer healing benefits for various respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, asthma, COVID-19, flu, pneumonia, and sinus congestion. Some social media users claim the recipe can be used as a substitute for vaccines.

Risk level: Medium

Recommendation: These types of posts may discourage patients from getting the flu vaccine this flu season, especially when some of these claims are coming from credentialed experts. It is recommended doctors be prepared to answer questions about the safety and efficacy of the flu vaccine, as well flu vaccine “alternatives.” Talking points may emphasize that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting sick with the flu, reduces the risk of flu-related hospitalization, and reduces children’s risk of developing life-threatening influenza. Health care providers may also emphasize that vaccines and their ingredients are safe. The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks across all age groups, because vaccines prevent severe illness and death from disease. Finally, doctors may stress that there is no scientific evidence that a “flu bomb” can prevent or cure the flu. Vaccination remains our best protection against influenza.