What is in the flu shot, the ingredients explained?

xWhen we talk about flu shots, many misinformation and myths come to our mind, but one of the most dangerous and completely untrue claims is that an individual can suffer flu by taking the flu shots.

The reason behind this claim, which is not entirely false, is that flu shots contain the influenza virus, but that can make any individual suffer from flu. In an interview with health, Tanya Elliott, an infectious disease specialist and MD at NYU, stated that “the flu shot it is made up of proteins or are killed virus that was part of the virus, which successfully tricks the immune system into developing a response, into fighting off the virus.”

What are flu shots?

Flu shots are also known as influenza vaccines or flu jabs. These vaccines provide protection against infection caused by influenza viruses. A new version of these vaccines is developed every two years, as the influenza virus keeps changing with that their effectiveness also varies from year to year. Most of the vaccines provide more days to high security against influenza. According to the CDC, the flu vaccination reduces hospitalizations, medical visits, deaths, and sickness. A vaccinated individual who does get infected by the flu can return to work after a day. The effectiveness of vaccines remains quite uncertain due to a lack of quality research.

What else is in the flu shot?

The flu or influenza vaccine more than inactive parts of the flu virus. However, there is not one particular ingredient list of flu shots, as multiple flu shots are offered and produced every year. There are a few shots of ingredients and components that you can see if you look up at the elements present in the flu shot you have chosen. When an individual gets a flu shot, he has two options:

  • Live influencer vaccine nasal spray flu vaccine that contains a live but weak form of the virus.
  • The inactive influenza flu vaccine contains a virus, but it has been killed.

Listed below are some of the components present in many flu shots.

  1. Egg protein:

We all might have heard that individuals suffering from egg allergies shouldn’t or can’t get flu shots. The main reason behind this is that egg protein is usually added to some flu shots.

Egg protein is indeed used in flu shots because many of these vaccines are made using chicken eggs. If you are suffering from an egg allergy, it doesn’t mean you should not get a flu vaccination. A CDC report presented by Waleed Javaid, director of infection prevention and control at Mount Sinai Downtown NYC has stated that “egg allergy shouldn’t prevent any individual from getting the flu vaccine as the amount of protein present, in short, is quite low and it will not cause any allergic reaction.”

You also said, “if an individual still uncomfortable, he/she can consult the pharmacist regarding the egg-free flu vaccine.”

  1. Preservatives:

Preservatives such as formaldehyde are used in some flu vaccinations to keep the formula from being contaminated. While it is quite obvious to be concerned about formaldehyde being added to a vaccine, but it is essential to keep the big picture in your mind. So, the particular size of 1 flu shot is 0.5 ml. The total amount of formaldehyde present in a specific flu vaccine is not enough to harm any individual.

However, formaldehyde can turn out to be dangerous for that individual who drinks a cup of it. This preservative is not as foreign as you might think. Our digestive tract produces formaldehyde. Dr. Javaid also mentioned, “if an individual is still concerned, there are many vaccines which are preservative-free.”

  1. Adjuvants:

An adjuvant is a component present in some of the flu vaccines, which helps in the illicit strong immune response against the flu virus. This also means it supports a body fight off the flu virus when you contact it.

Single adjuvant added in flu vaccines produced from 2020 to 2021 is known as MF59. It is made out of squalene. Squalene is a substance found in animals and humans and prepares our immune system to fight harmful flu viruses. According to CDC, aluminum salt is another example of adjuvant added in flu vaccines.

  1. Stabilizers:

Stabilizers are added in flu vaccines to keep them highly potent while transported to doctors’ clinics and various pharmacies. According to CDC, gelatin and sugar are examples of stabilizers used in flu shots.

  1. Antibiotics:

If you wonder why antibiotics are added to flu vaccines in the first place? Because antibiotics help in killing all the harmful bacterial infections. Dr. Javaid explains that “antibiotics added in the flu vaccines so that harmful bacteria do not grow.”

  1. Polysorbate 80:

Polysorbate 80 is an emulsifier added in vaccines to keep all the ingredients and components evenly distributed. However, a large dose of polysorbate 80 can cause people to have harmful reactions, but the amount of this emulsifier used in the flu vaccine is meager.

How does the flu shot works?

To create this vaccine, scientists and researchers select the influenza virus strains that studies suggest will be the most common reason in the flu season. Millions of flu vaccines are produced with those strains and distributed worldwide.

Once you receive your flu vaccine, your body starts producing beneficial antibodies against the influenza virus’s harmful strains. These antibodies will provide you protection against the flu.

But if an individual comes in contact with different strains of the virus, he may get sick. But luckily, the symptoms will be mild because of the vaccination.

Benefits of the flu vaccines

Taking yearly flu shots is the single best method to prevent the flu virus and its complications. However, vaccines’ effectiveness can vary from one year to another; in general, the flu vaccine can reduce illness and doctor appointments. During the year 2016-17, the flu vaccine prevented 5 million diseases and 2 million doctor’s appointments.

The vaccine also reduces the chances of an individual getting sick. And if an individual does catch the flu, its effects will be very mild compared to when he wasn’t vaccinated. The flu shots can also prevent serious flu complications such as:

  • Asthma attacks
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

These are why adults, children, and individuals suffering from chronic diseases are like diabetes, heart diseases, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to get vaccinated.

Who should get the flu shot?

Doctors have recommended that every individual over the age of 6 months should receive the flu vaccine. This is highly necessary for individuals suffering from high-risk categories such as:

  • Children under the age of five
  • Pregnant women
  • People of the age 18 and under who have received Aspirin therapy.
  • People over the age of 65 and above
  • Individuals whose BMI is 40 and above
  • An individual living or working in a chronic care center or nursing home
  • Caregivers
  • Alaska natives and American Indians
  • Individuals suffering from chronic mental conditions

Many doctors have recommended that everyone get their flu shots by October as your body will have sufficient time to develop antibodies before flu season starts. Even if you haven’t received your flu vaccines by the end of October, it is always helpful to get the flu shots anyway, as it takes two weeks for antibodies to start developing after vaccination.


A seasonal flu vaccine is the only best method to protect yourself against the influenza virus, especially when coronavirus is still a significant risk. An individual can get infected by both coronavirus and fluid simultaneously, so diligent care and prevention are essential. There is no 100% guarantee that the flu vaccine will prevent the flu, but many research and studies have stated that it can reduce the sickness’s effect or severity. You can get an appointment to receive your flu vaccine at a local clinic or doctor’s office. Flu vaccines are readily available at grocery stores and pharmacies.