Just more than one in every three Americans has decided not to have a flu shot this year, according to a new poll conducted by Consumer Reports National Research Center. The 1,500 adults surveyed cited concerns about the side effects, exaggerated epidemic messages, and a desire to build up their own immune systems among their reasons.

The survey found that four in 10 Americans who say they will skip the flu shot this year are really concerned about side effects allegedly linked to the vaccine.

The surveyors point out that this reason for skipping the flu shot is scientifically flawed, pointing out that side effects, when they do occur are mild and occur very rarely. An extremely small number of individuals may have a more serious allergic reaction. The risk of complications from catching the flu are far greater and much more serious than the side effect risk from the flu vaccine. Even the risk of Guillain-Barre syndrome is estimated to be one in every 1,000,000 people who receive the vaccine—a much smaller number than those who catch the flu. Most people with that risk already have a neurological disorder. For those people who are concerned about mercury in vaccines, mercury-free options are available.

For individuals who skip the vaccine because they believe they are building up an immunity, the surveyors point out that there are only two ways a human can build up immunity: either by becoming ill with the flu or having the vaccine. The point of having the vaccine is to avoid becoming ill by building up the individual’s immune system.

According to figures by US health authorities, 200,000 people each year who catch the flu are hospitalized, and a significant proportion of them are not vaccinated.

Source: Consumer Reports, CDC