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Injecting Truth into Flu Vaccine Misconceptions

All staff, including contractors, who have a valid NIH identification badge will be provided the seasonal flu vaccine free of charge at one of our campus or off campus flu clinic sites.

“The decision to get the flu vaccine has many downstream impacts. It not only protects you from flu, it protects your patients, your families, and your coworkers,” said Dr. Michael Bell, Medical Director of Occupational Medical Services. “If you look at it as an opportunity to save someone’s life or prevent them from developing a very serious illness, then it’s really hard to think of anything other than a serious risk that would outweigh that.”

Bell wants to set the record straight on the influenza vaccine. People cannot get influenza from the vaccine that the NIH administers because the flu shot is an inactivated virus, he said. FluMist, a nasal spray immunizer, does contain a live virus, which is why the NIH does not purchase it. Healthcare personnel should not get FluMist off-site because they cannot have patient contact for seven days for risk of transmission.

Another misconception is that the influenza vaccine is unsafe for pregnant women or those who seek to become pregnant. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends influenza immunization for pregnant women. “Any of the licensed, recommended, age-appropriate, inactivated influenza vaccines can be given safely during any trimester,” stated the ACOG in the April 2018 issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

The immunity of the influenza vaccine lasts six to eight months, so it is important to get vaccinated every year, said Bell. He also encourages frequent hand washing and staying home from work if you do fall ill, especially with a cough.

For further information on common misconceptions about influenza immunization please visit:

Mandated healthcare personnel should be vaccinated. Qualifying employees and contractors will be notified by e-mail that they fall under the mandate. If you believe you qualify as patient-care staff but do not receive an e-mail, please check with your supervisor or contact the CC Hospital Epidemiology Service.

Mandated personnel may meet the requirement by submitting documentation of outside flu vaccination or receiving an exemption due to medical or religious reason.  For more information on submitting documentation of outside flu vaccination, or how to request exemption due to a medical or religious reason, please visit this website:

For more information, visit If, after checking the Foil the Flu website, you still have questions, please contact Occupational Medical Service at (301) 496-4411 or the Hospital Epidemiology Service at (301) 496-2209.

Foil the Flu is sponsored by:

NIH Office of Research Services/Division of Occupational Health and Safety/Occupational Medical Service and the NIH Clinical Center/Hospital Epidemiology Service​