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Vaccines: 10 Common Questions Answered


Published on July 23, 2020

Why are vaccines important?

Dr. Cory Offutt, a family medicine physician with the Phelps Health Medical Group, says vaccines are important because they protect those with weaker immune systems, as well as the community as a whole.

How are vaccines studied and improved upon?

“We have vaccines because we see outbreaks of viruses like [the one that causes] COVID-19,” he said. “It’s important to remember that all vaccines go through very extensive research studies to ensure they’re safe for the public.”

Why is it important that people get vaccines?

Dr. Offutt said that vaccinations are important to help prevent the spread of infections. “The more people that we have in the population that are vaccinated, the less likely that an infection is to spread to people that aren’t vaccinated. If you have a certain percentage of the population that is vaccinated, it’s called herd immunity and it protects the population. According to Johns Hopkins, herd immunity usually calls for 70%-90% of the population to be vaccinated in order to achieve proper herd immunity.”

Will getting a vaccine give me a virus?

Generally, vaccines don’t actually give you the virus for which you are being vaccinated. “For example, the flu shot doesn’t give you the flu. The symptoms you have when you get a flu shot are the result of your immune system being triggered to create antibodies,” Dr. Offutt said. “When you get the flu shot, it takes several weeks to develop antibodies in order to fight off the virus, so you may develop the flu before you actually have enough antibodies to fight off the virus. If you get the flu, you most likely got it before you developed enough antibodies to fight it off.”

After getting the flu shot, I feel achy and sore. Is this the flu?

No. It’s your body’s natural inflammatory response to being exposed to something new. It’s an appropriate response, and those mild symptoms should only last for a couple of days.

Why aren’t vaccines always 100% effective?

Because everyone’s immune system is different, a vaccine may not always be 100% effective. Dr. Offutt said staying healthy through proper diet and exercise can help make sure that our immune systems are able to mount a proper immune response to vaccines.

Why is it so important to take viruses seriously?

“All viruses should be taken seriously. For example, the virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster, can cause severe issues such as seizures, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), permanent scarring, nerve damage and brain damage,” Dr. Offutt said.

Why do babies have to get so many shots at once?

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, shots are administered a certain number of months apart to mount the optimum amount of antibody production. “There is often a concern about doing too many shots at once, but our bodies produce enough antibodies to respond to over 10,000 different incoming offenders, such as viruses, at one time,” he said. “Having a few vaccines at once will not overwhelm a body’s immune system because the immune system is constantly fighting things off.”

Why do we get vaccines as adults?

“We get vaccines as adults to continue to protect our bodies from viruses that could cause us harm, such as shingles, also called herpes zoster,” said Dr. Offutt. According to the CDC, shingles is a reactivation of the varicella virus that causes chickenpox. It is extremely painful and can cause blindness, permanent pain or nerve damage.

How do I know when to get a vaccine for myself or a loved one?

Your healthcare provider should let you know, but the CDC also has guidelines for when vaccines should be administered.

Schedule your flu shot

To schedule your flu shot, contact your provider’s office through MyChart or call your care team today. 


To establish care with a Phelps Health primary care provider near you, please call (573) 364-9000 for help with scheduling an appointment.

Found in: Flu Health Health Influenza Pediatrics Vaccinations Wellness