The Flu Shot- Questions and Answers
Why is it so important that I receive influenza vaccine?
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. While most persons recover from influenza uneventfully it is a miserable illness that will keep you from going to work, caring for your family and doing the things you want to do. For some it can be quite serious and result in hospitalization and can even be life-threatening.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Everyone over the age of 6 months.
What strains does this year’s flu vaccine protect against?
Both the shot and FluMist® 2012-2013 vaccine will protect against an influenza A H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 to cause a pandemic.
If I got a flu shot last year do I need to get one this year?
Yes. Even though this year’s shot covers the same influenza viruses as last year’s you still need to get the 2012-2013 shot. Immunity to influenza from the vaccine decreases with time and should be boosted with a yearly shot.
Can I get the flu from the flu shot or FluMist®?
No, the vaccine cannot cause influenza or the flu. The virus used to make the shot is killed and the virus in FluMist attenuated so it can not cause the flu.
Does getting vaccinated against the flu early in the season pose a risk that immunity may wane before the end of the season?
No. Flu vaccination provides protection against the influenza strains contained in the seasonal vaccine for the entire season. Vaccination can begin as soon as vaccine becomes available.
Is the nasal flu vaccine FluMist® available?
Both the injectable and intranasal FluMist vaccines are available.
Who can take the nasal flu vaccine, FluMist®?
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is an option for healthy people 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.
I am around immunocompromised persons at home or work. Can I take the nasal flu vaccine, FluMist®?
People who are in contact with others with severely weakened immune systems when they are being cared for within a bone marrow transplantation unit should not get the nasal vaccine, FluMist®. People who have contact with others with lesser degrees of immunnosuppression (for example, people with Lupus, cancer, diabetes, people with asthma taking corticosteroids, or people infected with HIV) can get FluMist®.
Is a preservative (Thimerosal)-free vaccine available, and can I request to receive it?
The FluMist is Thimerosal-free. The injectable seasonal vaccine is available Thimerosal-free in limited quantities and is provided only to those few people with Thimerosal allergies. A large body of evidence supports that Thimerosal is safe in the quantities contained in the influenza vaccines.
Can I get the flu vaccine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
Yes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers especially should be vaccinated. Pregnant women are at high risk of complications from the flu if they become ill during their pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers should be vaccinated to avoid passing the flu to their babies. You should not get the nasal vaccine, FluMist® if you are pregnant.
What are the side effects of the flu vaccine?
The side effects of the vaccine are minimal and most people are unaffected. Some experience a mildly sore arm for a short time and rarely people who are receiving the vaccine for the first time experience a mild fever and/or minor aches that last about 24 hours. A small number of persons may experience a mild stuffy nose after receiving FluMist.
Should I take the flu vaccines if I have a chronic health condition?
If you have a chronic medical condition it is even more important that you receive flu vaccine to protect you from the complications of severe influenza infection. If you have a temporary medical illness you should consult with your primary care physician to see if the flu vaccine should be delayed until your illness if over.
What should I do if I have an allergy to, or a previous serious reaction from the flu vaccine?
If you know you have a serious allergy or previous serious reaction to the flu vaccine you should consult with your primary care physician about whether the condition prevents you from taking the flu vaccine. This includes developing Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine. If your physician feels you should not get the vaccine you should obtain documentation from your physician and request a medical exemption for vaccine.
I have a cold and cough but no fever. Should I wait to take the flu vaccine?
Unless you have a fever of at least 100.0 Fahrenheit oral temperature, there is no reason for you to wait to take the injectable flu vaccine. In most instances, you may also take the intranasal FluMist vaccine. However, if your nasal congestion is bad enough to impede the delivery of the intranasal vaccine, then you should get the injectable vaccine or wait a few days until the nasal congestion improves.