Everyone, age 6 months and older, is strongly encouraged to be vaccinated annually against the flu virus. Flu vaccines, commonly called flu shots, are your best defense against getting sick and the most effective way to control the spread of the virus.
Get vaccinated in September or as early as possible during flu season, which usually begins in October and peaks in January or February.
The flu can have serious medical complications leading to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths in the United States each year. Vaccination is the best protection against the flu. Being vaccinated also helps protect those around you from getting the flu.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about the flu vaccine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. While most people recover from the flu fairly easily, 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 others it can be quite serious and result in hospitalization and can even be life-threatening.
Yes. Even though this year’s shot covers the same flu viruses as last year’s, you still need to get vaccinated. Immunity to flu from the vaccine decreases with time and should be boosted with a yearly shot.
No, the vaccine cannot cause the flu. The virus used to make the shot is not live so it can not cause the flu. If you became ill with the flu after receiving the flu vaccine, it is most likely that you either contracted it before you received the shot or contracted a virus for which the vaccine did not provide protection.
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.
People who are in contact with others with severely weakened immune systems, such as in 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®. If you have questions regarding immunocompromised persons, discuss this with your primary care physician.
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.
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.
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 or minor aches that last about 24 hours. A small number of people may experience a mild stuffy nose after receiving FluMist®.
If you have a chronic medical condition it is even more important that you receive the 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.
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 within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine. If your primary care physician feels you should not get the vaccine you should obtain documentation from your physician and request a medical exemption for vaccine.
Seasonal influenza vaccines have been associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) in 1 per 1,000,000 people vaccinated. Recent data suggest that getting the flu and not the vaccines may be one of the causes of GBS.
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. Your primary care physician can determine if your nasal congestion will impede vaccine delivery.