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The flu shot does not increase your risk of getting COVID-19

September 18, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The flu shot increases your chance of catching COVID-19. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no evidence that getting the flu vaccine increases your risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

THE FACTS: A clip from Fox News’s show “Outnumbered Overtime” with Harris Faulkner on Sept. 16 is gaining traction online after social media users began suggesting that television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz said the flu shot could increase the chance of catching the coronavirus. Dr. Oz was cut off before he could elaborate.

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“It’s not just a flu shot, it increases the chance it seems of you getting COVID-19,” Oz says before quickly mentioning an Italian study and being cut off.

Dr. Oz’s words appear to have been misrepresented before he was cut off by the host. Dr. Oz was discussing the importance of getting a flu shot, said Cheryl Crowley, a spokeswoman for The Dr. Oz show, said in an email.

“He responded in agreement with getting the flu shot saying “It’s not just a flu shot. It (the flu) increases the chance, it seems, of you getting Covid-19,” she said. “He was referring to ‘the flu’ increasing the chances of transmission of Covid-19.”

Crowley added that Dr. Oz and his staff got their flu shots. In fact, a day before his interview with Faulkner, Dr. Oz put out a special on the importance of getting a flu shot.

“This fall, getting a flu shot is more critical than ever,” he says.

The misrepresented clip of Dr. Oz was shared thousands of times on Twitter and also shared on Facebook. 

“Wait. What? Freudian Slip by Dr Oz? #FluShot increases the chance of getting #covid19,” one tweet with more than 5,000 retweets shared Wednesday said. 

Experts have repeatedly debunked this claim about the flu shot but social media users are sharing it again ahead of the flu season. 

“There is simply no truth to the statement receiving the influenza vaccine increases the risk of COVID-19,” Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota infectious disease expert, said in an email. “Get your flu shot!”

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The CDC has said that flawed studies have led to the inaccurate conclusions about the flu vaccine and coronavirus. 

“Flu vaccines are not thought to make people more susceptible to other respiratory infections,” the CDC says on its website. 

The CDC mentions that the studies used to make the claims are flawed. They include a 2012 study that claimed that the vaccine made more people more susceptible to respiratory infections and a 2020 study that looked at the flu vaccine and four common seasonal coronaviruses. 

The CDC said experts were not able to replicate the results in the first study and that the second study found that the vaccine did not contribute to seasonal coronavirus cases. The coronavirus family of viruses includes the one that causes COVID-19 and others that can cause the common cold.

“There is absolutely no evidence that getting the influenza vaccine either increases your risk of having an influenza-like illness or for acquiring other viral respiratory types of infections,” said Dr. David Hamer, professor of global health at the Boston University School of Public Health and School of Medicine. 

With the flu season approaching, Hamer said it’s critical that people get the flu vaccine to avoid a twin pandemic of the flu and COVID-19 in the fall and to avoid confusion around symptoms of the illnesses. 

“We would rather not have a lot of people coming in for influenza-related care if there are a lot of people being treated for COVID-19 at the same time just because that’s a risk for exposure,” he said. 

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536