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ORS breadcrumb Foil the Flu breadcrumb Injecting Truth into Flu Vaccine Misconceptions

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.

Please wear clothing that will let you quickly expose your upper arm.  Changing areas will not be available.

  • Flu vaccine is mandatory for all NIH employees and contractors who have contact with Clinical Center patients.
  • Declination for religious or medical reasons can be provided in person at the Occupational Medical Service (Building 10/6C306), or be completed electronically and sent by encrypted email to
  • If you are required to get the flu vaccine and you receive your flu vaccine in the community, please save either an electronic or physical copy of your vaccination record for documentation and submit in person to OMS (Building 10/6C306) or by encrypted email at
  • Egg-based, cell-free vaccine (Flucelvax) will be available at standard doses. Those who have declined on the basis of egg allergy are no longer exempt.

Staff ages 65 and older will be offered a high-dose vaccine that stimulates a stronger immune response. This population tends to develop lower levels of protective antibodies with a traditional dose vaccine. The high-dose vaccine, Fluzone, remains egg based. 

Following immunization, you will receive an email with information on how to access your certificate of immunization.

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