It is hard for the FDA or the CDC to admit that there is ever a problem with the influenza vaccine. Every year about this time there is a huge campaign to encourage virtually every American to get a flu shot. There seems to be a tendency to downplay past failures (last year the shot was shockingly ineffective) and minimize adverse reactions. Here are official pronouncements from the CDC regarding flu vaccine safety:
Are flu vaccines safe?
“Flu vaccines are among the safest medical products in use. Hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received flu vaccines over the past 50 years, and there has been extensive research supporting the safety of flu vaccines.”
Do flu vaccines cause any side effects?
“Like any medical product, vaccines can cause side effects. Side effects of the flu vaccine are generally mild and go away on their own within a few days.”
What Patients Are Saying About the New Flu Shots:
We first started hearing about persistent shoulder pain following influenza vaccination last winter. Prior to last year’s flu season, we had not received reports of this kind of problem. Now the reports come in like the tide. Here are just a few we have received over the last several weeks.
“I had a flu shot 2 weeks ago. The shot was high up and painful. I now have severe pain which has gotten worse both at the site, down my arm and in my shoulder. My fingers also have some numbness. I am up at night in pain and am worried by comments of prolonged issues. What could this be? A damaged nerve?”
“I had my workplace flu shot about four weeks ago and the pain in my shoulder is gradually getting worse, as is range of arm motion. Thus morning the fingers of my hand were even numb so I started looking for others reporting similar symptoms. I don’t have much faith that my doctor will be able to offer more advice than to take Tylenol until it becomes way more serious than a sore arm. I wish someone could predict how long this will last.”
“This is just too weird! It sounds as if everyone is telling my experience with a flu shot word for word. I have been getting a flu vaccination since 1997 with few or no side effects until Oct 2013. I figured why make an appointment at a doctor’s office and pay extra when I can get it at Walgreen’s for less $ and walk right in then out?
“This time the flu shot was different. I noticed a lot of pain at the injection point which subsided after about one month, but continued on and off for one year. Then, stupid me, I went back to Walgreen’s again in Oct. 2014 and received a shot in the same location and now this time the pain would not subside. I experience extreme pain every day at the injection point that travels throughout my entire shoulder, into my neck and in down my arm. What was in the vaccine cocktail? I will never get vaccine again.”
“I had my flu shot yesterday. Last night I woke up to severe pain in my shoulder. I can move my arm, but it’s extremely painful and seems to take 3 times the effort as usual. I have had a flu shot every year for years and years and can never remember pain like this…I’m really wondering if I should go back to the doc.”
“I had my flu shot 25 days ago. I have severe pain in the arm between the shoulder and elbow. To put my arm into a sleeve is painful and my range of motion without pain is zero. When I received the shot I felt terrible pain. I never had this happen with previous shots. Will this get better? Will the pain go away? I called the pharmacy where I got the flu shot, and of course I was told that they never heard about this happening for so long after the shot.”
“I’m not happy that others have had bad experiences with this year’s flu shot, but at least I no longer feel crazy. I Googled ‘bad reactions to 2015 flu shot’ just to see what would come up. I am really amazed at how many people are having similar symptoms involving the arm. I’ve been getting the flu shot for 20 years and never experienced anything like this!
“Some years my arm was a bit achy; some years I felt a bit sick; some years I didn’t even feel as if I had received a flu shot. Well, I know this year and I’ve been really concerned!
“I got the shot over a month ago. Two days afterward I felt awful but was most concerned about the arm symptoms-pain as well as tingling that started around the injection site but by day 2 had progressed to my hand. I also had pain in that shoulder and the elbow. It got intense enough that I almost sought medical treatment, thinking perhaps I was having a rare reaction.
“I’m better but a month later am still experiencing arm pain. I am wondering when it will go away! Also, if it’s an indication of the severity of this year’s flu-and let’s hope they got the vaccine right this year-then I surely don’t want it! This experience has definitely made me question flu shots!”
“I had a flu shot on Sept. 18, 2015, on my job. Someone came to our school from a local pharmacy to administer the shots. Everyone that received the shots complained of soreness in their arms at the injection site.
“Two weeks after I got the shot I have been suffering with soreness in my upper left shoulder and my left arm. I also have tingling in my arm and fingers. I have tried pain relievers but nothing helps on a long-term basis. I have been at my wit’s end because people have told me that it might be a stroke or heart attack. I can’t take this pain in my arm. I regret getting the flu shot this year. I’m tired of taking different pain killers. If there is a good, kind doctor out there that can tell me how to get rid of this pain, please help.”
“I got my flu shot on Oct. 4th at my local pharmacy. It hurt a bit more than usual during the injection, but I didn’t think much of it. I had a lot of pain at the injection site for a few days, which I thought would eventually go away.
“While the injection site itself is not that sore, my whole arm from the shoulder to the elbow aches all the time, and the pain disrupts my sleep. There’s no paralysis, but I’m favoring the left arm because it is hard to do anything with it, such as lifting grocery bags or other normal everyday tasks. Typing also seems to aggravate it.
“I’ve spoken to a nurse at my PCP’s office who suggested hot compresses, self-massage, and Advil. These don’t really help. I will be calling my doc’s office again next week to see what else I can do. I get a flu shot every year and have never had a problem like this before. I also got a little sick for a few days after the shot, feeling under the weather with body aches, fatigue, etc. Seems to me this year’s flu shot is really hard to tolerate.”
“Boy oh boy! I am glad to read these comments. I got my shot Sept. 30th in my left arm at the doctor’s office. Two days later I experienced a burning sensation and tingling down to my wrist. Not continually but frequently. There was also a knot in the upper shoulder.
“After two weeks I went back to the doctor and was told it was probably a pinched nerve unrelated to the flu shot. I agreed with the nerve diagnosis but I did not agree with it not being due to the shot. This site convinces me of that. Although the symptoms have subsided somewhat, it still continues almost four weeks later. I reported my case to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System VAERS website. You all should also.”
What’s Going On with the Influenza Vaccination?
We do not have a clear explanation for why so many people are reporting severe, long-lasting arm reactions to flu shots over the last year or so. Since the FDA and the CDC are such cheerleaders for flu shots, it is hard to learn about serious side effects. We can speculate, however.
In the last few years we have seen something called the quadrivalent influenza vaccine emerge. In years past the flu shot protected against 3 virus strains (trivalent). Now, however, there has been a rush to provide greater protection against circulating influenza viruses. Hence the 4-virus shot was developed. It is supposed to protect against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
Even with this presumed extra protection, last year’s vaccine was a disaster. The CDC reported that the 2014-2015 flu shot was only 18% effective against the nasty H3N2 Type A flu bug that made so many people really sick. Overall vaccine effectiveness was clocked at 19%, a really terrible track record.
There is one other factor worth considering. There is now a high-dose flu shot that was designed specifically for older people. The CDC says that the safety profile:
“is similar to that of regular flu vaccines, although some adverse events (which are also reported after regular flu vaccines) were reported more frequently after vaccination with Fluzone High-Dose. The most common adverse events experienced during clinical studies were mild and temporary, and included pain, redness at the injection site, headache, muscle aches, and malaise. Most people had minimal or no adverse events after receiving the Fluzone High-Dose vaccine.”
That may be true, but we have no way of knowing whether the people who are reporting complications from a flu shot received a quadrivalent shot or a high-dose vaccine. If you have experienced any adverse reactions to a flu shot, please share them below in the comment section and let us know the kind of shot you received if you can find out.
If you have experienced persistent problems from your shot, consider reporting your story to the FDA and/or the CDC (see below). You may also choose to apply for compensation (see below). Here are the official CDC pronouncements about reactions, even though they are not supposed to be happening:
“What should I do if I think I am having a severe reaction to a flu vaccine?
“If you think it is a severe allergic reaction or other emergency that can’t wait, call 9-1-1 and get to the nearest hospital. Otherwise, call your doctor.
“Afterward, the reaction should be reported to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). Your doctor might file this report, or you can do it yourself through the VAERS website, or by calling 1-800-822-7967.
“What should I do if I think I have been injured by the flu vaccine?
“If you believe you have been injured by a flu vaccine you may be eligible to receive compensation from the federal government for your injuries if certain criteria are met. To learn more visit the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program website or call 1-800-338-2382.”
Thank you for sharing your experience in the comment section below and please vote on this article at the top of the page.